New Delhi: Asserting that lack of access to energy deprives millions of people of a basic minimum living standard, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that India will ensure affordable electricity to all households in the country in the next five years.
Addressing the International Seminar on Energy Access here, Dr. Singh said: "One of the principal development challenges confronting humankind today is to ensure that each person has affordable access to energy. Lack of access to energy deprives millions of people of a basic minimum living standard. The problem is particularly acute for people living below the poverty line. The figures are quite staggering. Over 1.3 billion people in the world today lack access to reliable electricity.
"In our planning processes in India, we consider access to energy services as vital to inducing rapid development, reducing inequality and making economic growth processes more inclusive. Under the ongoing Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme, our goal is to electrify all the 600,000 villages of India. As a result of our efforts, more than 100,000 villages have been provided with electricity connections in recent years," he said.
"Now, only a few thousand villages in the country remain un-electrified. Besides, one million households in India are now using decentralized solar energy to meet their lighting energy needs," he added.
Stating that the Government is taking steps to offer cooking gas to all rural households, Dr. Singh said: "Most urban households cook with LPG. We have tried to introduce LPG for cooking in rural areas as well."
"Around 12 percent of around 190 million rural households today use LPG to meet their cooking energy needs. Giving all the 240 million households in the country an entitlement of six LPG cylinders per year will require only around 25 million tonnes of LPG," he said.
"This should be manageable for our country. But, extending distribution network to all villages may take time. To reduce the burden on women, fuel wood plantations within a kilometer of all inhabitations could be set up. Over one million households meet their cooking energy needs from biogas plants. Programmes that give incentives for use of renewable energy, therefore, have to be expanded," he added.
Emphasing that providing affordable energy access to the poorer sections of the globe is a challenge, Dr. Singh said: "It will require tremendous creativity and resourcefulness and also new ways of thinking and understanding. To this end, India is fully conscious of its responsibilities and commitments."
"We are also conscious that south-south cooperation is vital to achieving universal energy access. In this context, we have been vigorously supporting capacity building in other developing countries. Our experts have helped set up energy access projects in many developing countries," he said.
"We are delighted to share our experience in policy-making, technological development and implementation by creating a global platform for information and experience sharing," he added.
Asking the global community to come together to share mechanism and experiences on how to achieve sustainable energy goals, Dr. Singh said this would require global cooperation on a gigantic scale for financing as well as implementing viable projects in energy-deficient areas. The path ahead is difficult but we have to persevere."