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In Spite of Strong Growth, the Country at Present Remains a Model of Energy Sobriety

Posted on Thursday, November 5th, 2009 at 10:52 am by Hervé Kempf

And what if India were a model of energy efficiency? Received wisdom has it that developing countries waste their energy in the absence of adequate technologies, while developed countries supposedly use energy more efficiently. A study by the Indian firm Prayas, presented during the conference of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (FIJE) in Delhi on October 28, shows that's not the case at all.

Entitled, "An Overview of Indian Energy Trends," it reveals that between 1990 and 2005 the country's GDP increased 2.3 times, but its energy consumption rose 1.9 times. Moreover, energy intensity (energy consumption related to production) is much less than China's, but also less than the United States' and comes close to the European level.

A good part of this performance may be explained by the price of electricity to industry - among the highest in the world. In transportation also, India demonstrates great efficiency: India's totalconsumption of gas and diesel in 2005 was less than the simple increase in consumption in China and the United States between 1990 and 2005. The high price of fuel plays a significant role, but so does the density of Indian cities, which limits the length of trips.

Vegetarian Diet

For domestic energy uses, there is better energy intensity by income level than in the United States. That may be explained by the significant use of biomass, but also by the very widespread vegetarian diet, which limits cooking needs: on average, an Indian consumes one twenty-fifth as much meat as an American.

However, India has not succeeded in eliminating poverty. Economic growth has benefited the upper and middle classes primarily, and 40 percent of the population does not have access to electricity.

Solar energy and natural gas seem to be the way of the future, but also adoption of supercritical coal-combustion technology (which improves yield and reduces polluting emissions), as well as reduction of energy losses in the grids.


Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.

Cross-posted at Truthout.


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