LPG refill sales in rural Koppal for general and PMUY beneficiaries (2016–2018)

Fig. 1: LPG refill sales in rural Koppal for general and PMUY beneficiaries (2016–2018).

Because the total number of consumers increased every month, the monthly sales are standardized as monthly sales per 1,000 consumers. Exclusive, primary, secondary and rare use are defined as 10–12 (blue shaded), 5–9 (green), 2–4 (orange) and 0–1 (red) 14.2 kg cylinder(s) purchased in one year by an average rural household of five members. The baseline all-India (Urban + Rural) average purchase was 7.3 cylinders per household in 2015–2016 (blue dashed line).
Reproduced with permission from Kar, A., Pachauri, S., Bailis, R. and Zerriffi, H. Nat. Energy 4, 806–814 (2019); Springer Nature Ltd.

In India, exposure to pollution from household fuels like wood, crop residues and dung, kills more than half a million people each year.

Through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), India has provided capital cost subsidies to poor women to adopt the use of LPG for household cooking and energy supply. Within the first 40 months of the scheme, more than 80 million households obtained LPG stoves.

However, the full benefits of LPG adoption are contingent on near-complete replacement of polluting fuels with LPG.

Researchers found that just 7% of PMUY beneficiaries in Koppal district in Karnataka, India, purchased enough LPG cylinders to meet even half their cooking needs, suggesting that the beneficiaries seldom use LPG. The general (non-PMUY) consumers in this region use on average two times more LPG cylinders than PMUY beneficiaries. Yet, only 45% of general consumers use five or more cylinders per year, even after several years of experience with LPG.

These findings suggest the need for additional incentives to expand and accelerate LPG use for all rural populations, accounting for seasonal and financial variables. Though the findings come from a single district in Southern India, they may also apply to other areas with similar socio-economic conditions. A more expansive evaluation of PMUY would help inform the design of targeted incentives to transform infrequent users into regular users.