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Sustained LPG use requires progress on broader development outcomes

While the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has been instrumental in increasing India’s liquefied petroleum gas adoption, sustained use depends on factors such as regularity of income and ease of access to free-of-cost biomass. To ensure sustained use after adoption, interventions in clean cooking energy must tie in with broader rural development.

Messages for Policy

  • Although LPG use has increased since 2014–15, the lower odds of PMUY households using LPG as the primary or exclusive cooking fuel imply that further targeted interventions are needed to facilitate a complete and sustained energy transition.

  • In areas with low LPG uptake, government schemes on rural livelihoods and employment guarantees should converge with LPG promotion to enable predictable cash flows (to pay for LPG refills) among rural households.

  • Village-level targeting of LPG promotion could be an efficient approach in laggard areas to promote sustained use through community-level awareness campaigns and improved LPG availability.

  • Promoting the use of biomass in alternative value chains — thereby creating an opportunity cost for free-of-cost biomass — will be critical to the cessation of solid fuel use in rural households.

BASED ON Mani, S. et al. Nature Energy (2020).

The policy problem

Most Indian households now have access to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), with over 80 million having acquired an LPG connection through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), under a capital cost subsidy. And yet, three-quarters of rural households still use solid fuels to meet some of their cooking needs. While adopting a clean cooking fuel is necessary, it is not sufficient to eliminate household air pollution. Both, the sustained use of cleaner fuels and the cessation of solid fuel use are required. To achieve this, policymakers need a better understanding of the factors that cause households to discontinue LPG use after adoption as well those factors that promote sustained use.

The findings

We estimate the odds of a PMUY beneficiary using LPG for all cooking needs are about 56% lower than those of a general customer, controlling for baseline socioeconomic and geographic differences. We find that households with irregular and uncertain cash flows — those dependent on agriculture or on daily wages — have lower odds of using LPG as their main cooking fuel, perhaps owing to the recurring and inflexible cost of LPG refills. Households in villages with a greater proportion of LPG primary users have higher odds of increased LPG use, suggesting a possible peer-effect or influence of other village-specific factors such as access to biomass and LPG availability. Further, cattle ownership — which facilitates access to dung cakes — and easy access to firewood are major hindrances to increased LPG use.

The study

We use primary survey data from over 9,000 rural households in 6 Indian states — Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Data was collected in two rounds, in 2014–15 and 2018, from the same households. We classify LPG-consuming households from both rounds in three categories: (1) exclusive users, those reporting LPG as their only cooking fuel; (2) primary users, those reporting LPG as their ‘primary cooking fuel’ but also reporting use of other fuels; (3) minority users, the LPG users reporting non-LPG fuels as their primary fuel (Fig. 1). We assess the impact of several factors (such as primary source of income, PMUY benefaction, cattle ownership, age of the LPG connection, LPG availability and so on) that enable and hinder progression from minority use of LPG to exclusive use, while controlling for socioeconomic differences between households.

Fig. 1: Distribution of LPG-use categories among LPG households in 2018.

Percentages refer to the fraction of households in each LPG use category in Wave 2 (2018). Sample sizes are included in parentheses. Black lines indicate standard errors. Using a two-sample test of proportions (which uses t-statistics), we find that the difference between the proportions of exclusive users of LPG among PMUY households and general customers is statistically significant. Reproduced with permission from Mani, S., Jain, A., Tripathi, S. & Gould, C. F. Nat. Energy (2020); Springer Nature Ltd.


Further Reading

  1. Jain, A. et al. Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity: Survey of States 2018 (Council on Energy, Environment and Water, 2018). Largest longitudinal survey on energy access in rural India.

  2. Kar, A., Pachauri, S., Bailis, R. & Zerriffi, H. Capital cost subsidies through India’s Ujjwala cooking gas programme promote rapid adoption of liquefied petroleum gas but not regular use. Nat. Energy 5, 125–126 (2020). Additional measures to promote regular LPG use among rural households.

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  3. Giri, A. & Aadil, A. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: A Demand Side Diagnostic Study of LPG Refills (Microsave, 2018). Solutions to improve affordability and availability of LPG refills among PMUY consumers.

  4. Patnaik, S., Tripathi S., & Jain, A. Roadmap for Access to Clean Cooking Energy in India (Council on Energy, Environment and Water, 2019). A multi-fuel road map to achieve universal access to clean cooking energy in India.

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The Council on Energy, Environment and Water supported time spent by S.M., A.J. and S.T. on this research. The data collection for ACCESS was supported by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and the National University of Singapore. C.F.G. is supported by the United States National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grant no. T32 ES007322.

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Correspondence to Saurabh Tripathi.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Mani, S., Jain, A., Tripathi, S. et al. Sustained LPG use requires progress on broader development outcomes. Nat Energy 5, 430–431 (2020).

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