Sunday, October 26, 2014

Filling Household Energy Void in Developing Nations Starts with Small Emissions Rise -- Study

Household electricity use  (Credit: Click to enlarge.
Boosting household energy access has a minimal direct impact on climate change, according to a new paper that argues ending poverty should be the top short-term priority for poor countries.

The study published in the journal Nature Climate Change is among the first empirical studies to measure how a vast improvement in electrification -- in this case, in India -- contributed to greenhouse gas emissions levels.

The findings could create a snarl in the efforts of environmental groups who say renewable energy should be the key, if not only, tool to bringing modern electricity services to the 1.5 billion people worldwide living in darkness.

"There has been some level of fear that providing electricity access has to be done only through renewables.  While I think doing it through renewables where renewables makes sense is extremely worthwhile, I think in each case it has to be evaluated on its own grounds," said author Shonali Pachauri, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.

Pachauri said she launched her study after reading a news article trumpeting the threat that delivering energy to the world's poor could pose to climate change.

"It made me angry," she said.  "I said, 'That's not the cause of the climate problem.  It's not all these poor people who are the cause.'"

With few quantified studies available to see just how high emissions grow when poor communities gain electricity, Pachauri said she set out to find hard numbers.  She did so in India, where more than 400 million people still live without electricity, relying on candles, kerosene and open fires to cook, work and study.  At the same time, the country has made vast achievements in electrifying communities, delivering access to more than 650 million people over 30 years.

Pachauri found two key data sets were available:  national numbers showing how much electricity had improved and nationally representative household surveys going back to 1983 that included information about whether the family had access to energy and, if so, how much electricity each household consumes.

Crunching those numbers, she found that improvements in household energy access bumped up national emissions just 3.4 percent.  That, she said, is largely because even as rates of electrification rose, consumption remained generally low.

Read More at Filling Household Energy Void in Developing Nations Starts with Small Emissions Rise -- Study

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