Why is per capita electricity consumption in India so shocking?

Most of us heard about electricity shock, probably might have not experienced. Now, all of us are shocking and shaking on hearing the news that India's per capita electricity consumption stays among the least in the world. This post explores the probable reasons for it.


Electricity is among the most significant gifts that science has bestowed upon humanity. It seems to have become an integral element of modern life, and it is difficult to imagine a world without it. Electricity serves a variety of purposes in our daily lives. All of these give people a sense of security and sustainability.

Secondary source

Amid the two broad main classifications of energy categories, electrical energy is the secondary energy source derived from converting principal energy sources such as fossil-fuels, atomic power, and other normal sources. It can be generated using renewable or non-renewable energy sources, yet electricity is neither renewable nor non-renewable.

Efficient form

Compared to the primary energy sources, electrical energy is effective, efficient and clean, but some of the methods of producing it are not ecologically clean. It is easily transportable, but it can't be stored at a larger level. It is a controllable and convenient form of energy; once created, it must be used in the current technological environment.

Electrical energy characteristics

Effect on economy

Energy is a necessary component of production, and it is required in order to maintain current levels of income development and to also expand and promote economic growth. The replacement of other inputs with energy may also have macroeconomic constraints. Tools, machines, and factories require a constant flow of materials and energy to create, operate, and maintain. Humans who direct capital production use the same amount of energy and resources. As a result, producing more energy replacements necessitates a larger quantity of the item being replaced.

Electricity consumption vs Population growth

According to the Energy Information Statistics, global energy consumption is increasing at a rapid rate than global people, resulting in a rise in the mean value of electricity utilized per inhabitant (per capita electricity consumption). Energy usage rises in tandem with population growth. It has been hypothesized that the quantity of energy sources available determines the size of the population that the planet can support. With most existing fuel sources nearing their maximum reserve and the hunt for viable and sustainable equivalents progressing, it's vital to examine how population expansion influences energy consumption. In my perception, more people, not necessarily more energy.

What's electric power consumption (kWh per capita)

Electric power consumption refers to the amount of electricity produced by electrical generating stations and the combined heat and power plants after deducting the power line losses (transmission and distribution) and power consumption by the sources themselves. Or, in other words, it is the net energy or power available after the power loss for usage, which will be less than the power produced.

What is GDP?

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the final goods and services of all the value added generated in an economy. The wealth generated is the difference between the cost of production of goods and services and the cost of goods and services required to produce them, also known as intermediate consumption.

It has traditionally been used by economists to gauge economic success. Its growth indicates that the economy is in excellent condition and that the country is advancing. On the other hand, if it falls, the economy may be in risk and the country may be losing progress.

GDP is determined by combining all of the total expenditure in a particular period by individuals, companies, and the government. It could also be computed by totaling all of the money received by all of the economy's players.

Let's see an example of calculating GDP
GDP = HC + PI + GS + NE
HC – represents the households' (individuals') consumption (say USD100)
CI – gross private investment (companies) (say USD40)
CS – government spending (say USD50), and
NE – net exports (say USD5)
With the given sample quantities, GDP is found to be USD 195 (100+40+50+5)

What is per capita electricity consumption?

For a country, the measure of electricity consumption per capita is regarded as one of the most significant indicators of energy security, indicating the availability of safe and sufficient energy supplies for domestic consumption and overseas commerce. Besides, it is a key indicator of a country's progress in terms of electrification. In general, while the industrialization process accelerates, electricity consumption rises quicker, and when the process is done or near completion, demand falls swiftly.

Electricity consumption per capita = Total electricity consumption in kWh / Total population

Impact on economy

Changes in the economy's structure, such as moves to more energy-intensive industries, as well as changes in service demand, such as rising requirement for cooling and ventilating appliances, are likely to account for increases in per capita electricity consumption. Efficiency improvements, such as more efficient lighting, somewhat offset the rise in demand caused by these causes. Outsourcing energy-intensive sectors to other nations has had a regional impact on per capita electricity usage in several nations.

Global electrical energy consumption is rising in tandem with economic expansion, although the relationship varies by nation. Growth in per-person economic activity may happen without corresponding increases in per-person electricity consumption. It is conceivable in nations with big, developed markets, substantially balanced household electricity consumption, and a comparatively small proportion of productivity increases due to industrial activity. It is not necessarily necessary to use more electricity to provide a higher-value service than to provide a lower-value service.

Per capita electricity consumption vs GDP per capita

Per capita electricity consumption and the GDP per capita have an interesting relationship, depending upon the country's economic status. For simplicity of presentation and ease of understanding, I sort out all countries mainly into three categories, such as the poorest income, middle income and the highest income. For these three groups of countries, the relationship between per capita electricity consumption and GDP per capita resembles an inverted-U curve. According to global economic and electricity consumption statistics, per capita electricity consumption and GDP per capita have a positive slope, indicating that electricity use is low in the poorest countries. Whereas per capita electricity consumption and GDP per capita have a linear connection with a negative slope, showing that the cost share is low in the highest-income nations once again. In middle-income nations, however, electricity spending is substantial when compared to GDP.

Per capita electricity consumption vs GDP per capita

India's world rankings

  1. On electricity consumption:- China, the United States, India, and Russia are the top four electricity-consuming countries in the world. India stands in third place with a total electricity generation of 1.547 trillion kWh per year (as per 2020 statistics).

  2. On GDP:- According to data from the IMF's (International Monetary Fund) October 2020 World Economic Outlook, India surpassed China to become the world's fifth largest economy last year. In terms of nominal GDP, the country surpassed France and the United Kingdom. In the last decade, India's GDP growth has been among the greatest in the world, with yearly growth rates averaging 6-7 percent.

  3. On per capita electricity consumption:- Based on the most recent data available, India has the lowest per capita energy usage among the BRICS countries. Russia has the highest per capita electricity consumption six times that of India. China comes next to Russia three times that of India. South Africa has four times that of India, whereas Brazil's is higher than 2.5 times that of India.

    The BRICS group is made up of five large rising countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, which together contribute for about 42% of global population, 23 percent of GDP, 30 percent of territory, and 18 percent of global commerce.

    India is ranked 125th in the world, with a per capita electricity consumption of 857 kWh in 2020. This is the most worrying factor, though the total electricity production, consumption and GDP figures are at highly appreciable levels.

Let's see the reasons for such an unwanted situation in our nation.

Why is it shocking?

  1. Earlier consumption statistics:- Over the previous decade, India's per capita power consumption has progressively increased, resulting in major gains in rural electrification. In comparison to the rest of the globe, India is still lagging far behind, accounting for just around 30% of the global average. Over the years, India's per capita electricity usage has steadily increased. Per capita consumption increased by 46 percent in eight years, from 734 kWh in 2008-09 to 1075 kWh in 2015-16. Every year, per capita consumption has increased by a middling of 6%. In 2014-15, per capita consumption topped 1000 kWh for the first time. During these eight years, the greatest significant rise in per capita consumption was in 2011-12, when it increased by about 8%.

  2. Reliability of supply:- The first and most important element is the dependability of the power source. Efficient resource allocation for electrical infrastructure is an "extremely difficult problem." Power supply in India is frequently less dependable due to the complexity and expense of energy sector administration and investment. Despite the fact that we have sufficient infrastructure to produce energy, the continuity of supply delivery to the consumer end remains uncertain. Consumers are the ones who require power. What is the purpose of having all of these facilities if they can't obtain the energy, they need when they need it? In the wild, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! Unreliable electricity supply is a big hurdle in increasing per capita consumption.

  3. Electric supply and demand:- Electrical load demand is ever changing and varies according to customer demand. Load prediction is only useful to a limited extent. As a result, the power generation should be modified in accordance with the power demand. It is impracticable to change a generation at every moment. As a result, to satisfy the load requirement, the generation has been altered at frequent short intervals, say every 20 minutes. Advanced real-time control systems and trained staff are required. Despite this, weather conditions have a significant impact on supply-demand matching. Handling the yearly peak demand necessitates a network and generating capacity that, in some circumstances, is only used for a few hours each year.

  4. Infrastructure deficit:- India has excess generating capacity but insufficient transmission and distribution facilities. The power generated at the generating stations should be transmitted and distributed to the consumers. Very long transmission and distribution lines are needed and mostly they are widespread. Maintenance and continued operations of these networks are quite challenging and they are prone for cyber-attacks and theft of energy.

  5. Energy poverty:- According to World Bank, around 2.18 percent of Indian homes do not have access to electricity though we have excess generating capacity. Because of the remoteness of their place of living, running transmission and distribution lines are extremely difficult.

  6. Usage of traditional fuels:- The average electricity tariff in India is about USD0.07/kWh, which is relatively low when compared to other developing nations. Even yet, over 136 million Indians (11%) rely on traditional fuels such as firewood, agricultural waste, and dried animal dung fuel for cooking and general warmth. Despite the fact that they have supply connectivity and that their conventional fuels are not energy efficient, they choose their conservative way of life. The wind cannot be steered!

  7. State wise variation in power consumption:- State-by-state consumption patterns differ significantly. The highest per capita consumption is in the Union Territories. Bihar has the country's lowest per capita consumption, at one-sixth of the national average. Bihar is likewise in the same boat as the northeastern states. In general, per capita consumption varies throughout the states, ranging from 311 to 2378 kWh. This varies depending on the area, the weather, per capita income, tariffs, and other factors.

  8. T&D Power losses:- The power generated at the generating stations could not be transferred to the customers in its entirety. For technological and administrative reasons, power losses occur throughout the process of delivering electricity to customers. Energy dissipated through conductors, transformers, and other equipment used for transmission, transformation, sub-transmission, and distribution of electricity accounts for the technical losses. These technological losses are unavoidable in any system, but they may be minimized to a certain extent.

    Hooking, bypassing, and defective meters, as well as errors in meter reading, estimating unmetered energy supply, equipment breakdown, and low-quality infrastructure, are the main causes of non-technical losses (or administrative losses). The losses, including technical and non-technical, total about 28%. In an ideal situation, T&D losses should be between 6% and 8%.

  9. Areas of living:- In India, rural regions account for 65 percent of the population, while urban areas account for 35 percent. In 2020, the number of people living in cities have doubled from 17 percent in 1950, and by 2050, half of India's population will be living in cities. In rural regions, having access to reliable power is a pipe dream. For more remote locations, obtaining energy through a centralized system becomes increasingly difficult, both technically and economically. Local, self-contained electric systems that can generate electricity are therefore a viable option.

    The energy needs of city occupants are significantly higher than those of rural inhabitants. This is because city dwellers have a better quality of living, and their way of life necessitates larger energy inputs in all areas of life.


The examination of India's alarming trend in per capita power consumption in recent years is an excellent field for doing Electrical Power Systems Engineering research in order to obtain a PhD with financial help. Due to the scarcity of research results in this field, there is a significant need for both the electrical sector and commercial firms that provide power industry consulting services. I confined myself to a few points of analysis of the low per capita electricity consumption, which would be useful for the candidates aiming at research besides the society caring about our country's growth.


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