It is estimated that more than half of the Indian households use solid fuels for cooking even in 2018. This is not only an important energy access problem but also one with very adverse health impacts. Household air pollution arising from burning solid fuels for cooking is one of the leading contributors to mortality and disease burden in India. At the same time, India is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals which includes providing clean, modern fuels to all by 2030. The government has launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to distribute subsidised LPG connections to poor households.
In this context, we model and analyse four possible transition scenarios to modern cooking fuels and technologies, which shows that transition to modern fuel-technologies is a very cost-effective health intervention. The most aggressive transition involving a mix of modern fuels not only reduces the disease burden associated with cooking by more than half, but is also the most cost-effective. But if households do not shift to modern fuels completely, the analysis shows that stacking of solid fuels with modern fuels significantly erodes the health benefit of modern fuels. In order to help complete modern fuel adoption, consumer fuel pricing and targeted subsidies for poor households are necessary as fuel costs dominate the financial costs of the transition. The analysis also considers improved biomass cookstoves and concludes that the adverse health impacts from using even the best-in-class improved cookstoves are non-trivial. However, given their greater efficiency and lower emissions in comparison to traditional stoves, they can potentially be an intermediate technology in the shift to modern fuels.
The cooking fuel access problem is a multi-dimensional problem. Therefore, if India wants to rapidly fuel the transition to modern fuels, the solution should also be multi-dimensional and involve multiple fuels, stakeholders and strategies.