Geographic and socio-economic barriers to rural electrification: New evidence from Indian villages.


In Energy Policy

The International Energy Agency estimates that more than a billion people remain without household electricity access. However, countries such as India have recently made major progress in rural electrification. Who has benefited from these achievements? We focus on 714 villages in six energy-poor states of northern and eastern India to investigate trends in electricity access. We use data both from the 2011 Census of India and an original energy access survey conducted in 2014 and 2015. During the three years that separated the surveys, distance to the nearest town and land area lose their power as predictors of the percentage of households in the village that has access to electricity. In this regard, the Indian government’s flagship rural electrification program seems to have managed to overcome a major obstacle to grid extension. On the other hand, socio-economic inequalities between villages related to caste status and household expenditure remain strong predictors. These findings highlight the importance of socio-economic barriers to rural electricity access and alleviate concerns about remoteness and population density as obstacles to grid extension.