Nonlinearity of Energy Transition in India and Implications for Sustainability Science: An Exploratory Insight

Nonlinearity of Energy Transition in India and Implications for Sustainability Science: An Exploratory Insight

Anandajit Goswami (The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India), Arabinda Mishra (ICIMOD, Nepal) and Kaushik Bandopadhyay (TERI University, India)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0094-0.ch011
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Policy discourse on rural energy transition within developing countries approach the issue of energy transition through linearly structured, causality based models. This work aims to explore, question the authenticity of such an approach through exploring existence of non linearity in the rural energy transition process of India. Energy transition of rural households impact social, economic and environmental domains of sustainability. For instance, a switchover of a household from smoke generating mudstoves to clean cookstoves can reduce smoke generation, chance of respiratory diseases, impacting the economic, environment and social domains of sustainability. Transition to clean cookstoves can be non-linear and such a transition in a non-linear way impacts domains of sustainability. Hence this work tries to contextualize rural energy transition process through econometric methods, spatial theory of chaos. The work concludes with the exploration of non linear aspects of rural energy transition process within the local rural context and connects it to sustainability science.
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Provision of minimum electricity, energy to meet basic energy service needs of rural households of India has come to forefront in several policy discourses. The need to provide basic levels of primary energy to address the minimum energy access needs of rural households have also come to fore front (Srivastava, et. al, 2012).

Within these policy discourses, need for upliftment of rural households in an energy transition ladder has emerged. From a macro level policy perspective, the larger view is that with an increase in income, households should move towards modern and cleaner forms of energy usages. This macro level perspective has stayed on in policy debates related to energy transition even though any energy transition (which is a small type of transition amongst various forms of transition) is a micro-level occurence that happens owing to interaction of several factors. A top down macro-perspective to explain household energy transition in a linear, causal way can therefore be fraught with intuitive loopholes. Energy transition impacts the social, economic and environmental domains of sustainability and at the same time these social, economic and environmental domains also impact energy transition. Therefore, the connection between rural energy transition and sustainability is not a causal phenomenon and can be nonlinear, interactive in nature while an attempt is made to associate it with the theme of sustainability.

Rural energy transition is a microlevel phenomenon of a household which is determined by several socioeconomic, political, behavioural contexts of households. It also has a continuous strategic, coordinated interaction response of households to various factors specific to households, local contextualization of macro policies, behaviour, psychology, culture, sociology. A causality based macro model to understand such a micro level change might not always be accustomed to capture necessary processes that leads to specific energy transition behaviour within rural households. However, in spite of this intuitive limitation and fallacy, energy transition processes are often attempted to be captured by a causality approach. In order to understand broader narrative of interlinkages between rural energy transition and sustainability there is a need to come out of causal process based methods and move towards understanding of nonlinearities within the energy transition process.

Causal process analysis of rural energy transition are not sensitive to nonlinear dimensions of an energy transition phenomenon. In such causal processes, mostly statistical regression techniques are applied which might not be the appropriate, intuitive transformation of normative storylines that guide an energy transition process within rural households of a developing country like India. For developing countries, complexities of such storylines are much more subtle, multidirectional and will not be captured by a linear statistical regression method. Therefore, this chapter attempts to comment on evidences of non linearity in the context of rural household energy transition of India after setting out the larger policy context. It also attempts to initiate a non-linear analytical thinking process for understanding rural energy transition of rural households of India.

The next section therefore starts with the policy context and moves onto different macrolevel perspectives on rural energy transition pattern of India emerging from Census and National Sample Survey Organization data. After setting out the macro perspectives, the different sections of the chapter moves onto a micro perspective of analysing the pattern of rural energy transition in India. As a part of such micro perspectives, the chapter assesses the context of energy poverty in different states of India. From there it narrows down to some key states which are not doing well in terms of energy poverty and access. The reason for such narrowing down is to assess what drives energy transition in these states. In order to explore that, several factors which are important at a downscaled level of a state and can impact social, economic and environmental domains of sustainability are further explored.

In order to do that, agricultural index, industry, transportation, professional services, housing loan index, trade index, finance index and other factors at each district of selected states are collated. Their relative positioning in these states are assessed as these indices in a way impact economic, environmental, social domains of sustainability and might also impact rural energy transition in these states. This is done to establish the context behind several associated factors guiding the economic, social domains of sustainability and rural energy transition context in such select states.

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