Liquid Petroleum Gas Access and Consumption Expenditure: Measuring Energy Poverty through Wellbeing and Gender Equality in India

This paper is under consideration for publication elsewhere and has been withdrawn from the working paper series.

Despite the acceleration of electrification in India, many communities still suffer from the direct and indirect effects of energy poverty.

We investigate whether access to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and consumption expenditure can be used as measures of energy poverty in India, with a particular focus on gender equality. A district-level, quantitative analysis of household survey data was performed for the energy-poor states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Wellbeing and gender equality indices were constructed from contextually relevant indicators, whilst LPG access was considered in terms of physical access, affordability, and awareness. Levels of consumption expenditure were considered based on the updated urban poverty line for India. We found that LPG access and consumption expenditure do not have significant relationship with wellbeing or gender equality.

The result indicates that the traditional economic approach of using consumption expenditure cannot capture the multidimensionality of energy poverty. This has significant implications as it challenges the status quo of energy poverty measurement in India. The research also adds value to existing arguments that electricity access cannot be used as a sole indicator of energy poverty, by extending the argument to access to a modern cooking fuel. LPG access was however strongly associated with the education of women on the health effects of ‘chulha’ smoke. Consumption expenditure is also strongly associated with female property ownership which calls for future research on this novel relationship. Overall, this study calls for shifting energy poverty discussions to emerging concepts such as wellbeing and gender equality.

In memory of Dhilanveer Teja Singh Bahi

Dhilanveer (Dhilan) Teja Singh Bahi was a graduate from the University of Leeds (Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment) who sadly passed away on 20 June 2022. This work has emerged from his undergraduate dissertation. Dhilan is described by his family as “not afraid of hard work and wanting to help both society and the environment we live in. He embraced his Sikh faith and actively supported charitable campaigns. In particular, he was an advocate for conserving the planet and promoting sustainability for future generations. Dhilan was passionate about combatting energy poverty in India and completed his thesis on this topic. Dhilan was due to commence a graduate scheme at EDF Renewables and to continue his legacy, his colleagues have supported a charity, Barefoot College, which trains women in energy-poor states to become solar engineers. Dhilan believed in open access research and intended to publish his thesis in the hope of creating positive change. He continues to inspire us all.”