London: Brushing aside apprehensions about India's growing energy consumption, researchers have found that improving household electricity over the last 30 years in India contributed only marginally to the growth of the nation's total carbon emissions.
"This study shows that the climate impacts of expanding access are in fact very small," said researcher Shonali Pachauri from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
Using two data sources, the study found that improved electricity access in India from 1981 to 2011 accounted for approximately 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), or three-four percent of the rise in total national CO2 emissions.
Since electrification also tends to lead to increased wealth and participation in economy, it can also lead to additional increases in emissions from indirect energy use.
Pachauri found that when she took these factors into account, household electricity use would account for 156 to 363 million tonnes CO2, or a 11 to 25 percent growth of emissions in the country.
However, even with increased electricity use, Indian households still use less electricity than Chinese households.
Although India still lacks electricity access for much of its population - around 40 crore people - it has vastly increased access in the last 30 years.
From 1981 to 2011, household electricity access in the country improved from around 25 percent to between 67-74 percent of the population, an increase of approximately 65 crore people.
"India is at a similar stage to many other developing countries in terms of energy access. So we believe that these findings will be applicable on a broad scale to other developing countries," said Pachauri.
However, she added that expanding low-carbon energy technologies in developing countries would bring many co-benefits beyond climate mitigation.
The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.