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The Green Shift in Clean Cooking Fuel in India

18th May 2023

By Sheetal Rastogi (Finovista), KK Sinha (Finovista), Simon Batchelor (Gamos Ltd.; Loughborough University).

This blog is about a recent announcement by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas Energy Transition Task Force of India of a new target – 25% use of electricity for cooking by 2030.

Both the quantity and quality of energy consumed by a family or individual have emerged as an important parameter for assessing their well-being. While per capita energy consumption is treated as one of the key factors for determining the development level in any society, the lack of access to cleaner fuel for domestic cooking is included among the twelve indicators for measuring multidimensional poverty that identifies people as poor or not poor in the National Multidimensional Poverty Index(MPI) Baseline Report brought out by NITI Aayog in September 2021. In India, around 54 % of households in India continue to use traditional solid fuels, either exclusively or with LPG, thus contributing to indoor air pollution. In rural India, the use of LPG is even less where despite 80 % of households having an LPG connection, 67 % still use firewood for at least some of their cooking needs.

The Government of India has initiated programmes and schemes for decarbonisation of the economy and set ambitious targets for renewable energy generation, enhancing energy efficiency, launching GoElectric campaign, and setting up a national carbon market, amongst many others.  The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in the Government of India being aware of the health hazards and climate change set up the Energy Transition Task Force to look at the important issue of a transition to affordable and clean energy for all its citizens. The Energy Transition Task Force has prepared a detailed report entitled “The Green Shift” focusing on the low carbon transition of India’s oil and Gas Sector. The report highlights energy transition issues connected with the oil and gas sector in India, and how will the transition impact other energy-intensive sectors like industry, transport, cooking, etc. As per the report, there are approximately 2.9 billion people without access to clean energy globally, of which about 66 % are in Asia.  The efforts being undertaken in this direction are considered not enough as the International Energy Agency’s policy scenarios show the world is not on track to achieve universal access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030.

As regards the Indian energy scenario, the main cooking fuel which is widely used in India is LPG, PNG, coal, Kerosene, Dung Cakes, Firewood, crop residue, and electricity to some extent.

The report noted that the magnitude of the challenge for the transition to clean fuels for cooking in India remains large and must be a priority for implementation by the authorities. India predominantly used solid fuels for cooking until the late 2010s, but a recent push from the Government through Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojna (PMUY) offering incentives and subsidies has resulted in a shift toward LPG as the primary cooking fuel.  Up until 1st September 2022, the total connections released under PMUY are about 95 Million. Until now, LPG is one of the widely accepted clean cooking options in India. 

However, many households continue to use traditional solid fuels alongside LPG.  LPG can be expensive for many of households and in order to achieve affordability 84% of households continue to use traditional solid fuels for cooking purposes alongside their LPG. The government is also working to increase the pipe network for the supply of PNG to households providing additional options for cleaner cooking fuel, however, the level of import dependency is a discouraging factor. In the background chapter, the Green Shift report emphasized that the role of electricity is going to be vital in the transition to cleaner cooking energy in India and in the global push for decarbonisation being accelerated post-COP26. Moving to solar and electricity as energy options for cooking could offer a workable option as India is endowed with vast solar energy potential.  This will, however, be a longer-term transition as India further improves its electricity penetration, especially in rural areas, and the share of renewable in the grid.

The report states that at present there is as yet no national strategy to popularise or deploy electricity-based cooking options. Much of the success of such cooking solutions will depend on the achievement of the government’s intention of electrifying all households with a 24/7 supply. The current rural electrification programs such as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana need to give equal emphasis on the reliability of the electricity supply, which is sin qua non for the use of electricity as an effective source of cooking energy. The report further says that the current state of Indian cooking necessitates LPG to be the primary cooking fuel to ensure the move from solid fuels to clean fuels, while directional efforts to transition to electricity and solar as cooking fuels could be taken up such that these sources gain prominence and wider usage as we move forward. More R&D is needed to discover other biofuel substitutes to LPG that are derived from biomaterials available in India for blending. Hydrogen is being blended with PNG and that also could be encouraged. Stoves working on biofuels like ethanol, methanol, etc., need to be further developed and commercialized.

The electrification of cooking is a natural trend that has happened in several countries, especially in urban areas. This may be encouraged, as the share of renewables in the electricity mix increases it will result in automatic decarbonization. The experts opine in the report that solar-based cooking could also be a means to decarbonize but would only work effectively for mass cooking use cases. Thus, going forward, the government should also start focusing on the sustained use of the intended source and eventually migrating to access to reliable available electricity to ensure India meets its decarbonization targets and help address the aspirations encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal-7.

To transition at a rapid pace, Electric cooking needs to be promoted through campaigns. Wherever possible at least 50% of the cooking should be done through electricity. To further the net-zero ambitions, equipment like Solar stoves (Surya Nutan) and Concentrated Solar- Thermal Power (CSP) Cookers need to be adopted on a commercial stage.

The report notes that thetarget should be to have 25% of households using electricity for cooking by 2030”.

Here at MECS we certainly support that aspiration, and will continue to undertake relevant research and networking to accelerate the move towards that target.


Featured image credit: Finovista.

Opportunity: Women in Modern Energy Cooking (WMEC) initiative launched