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Navigating the Indian Energy Trilemma: The Role of Liquefied Petroleum Gas


Lydia Powell and Akhilesh Sati, Navigating the Indian Energy Trilemma: The Role of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, April 2024, Observer Research Foundation.

Executive Summary

The energy trilemma,[1] which calls for optimising the competing needs of energy security, sustainability, and affordability, poses an acute challenge for India. Unprocessed biomass and fossil fuels accounted for over 90 percent of India’s primary energy basket in 2022[2] and need to be reduced and eventually eliminated for long-term sustainability. For most of the Indian population, affordability is an important factor that often limits fuel choices.[3] Geopolitical tensions also threaten supply security and increase the price volatility of imported energy.

Fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), one of the cleanest conventional fuels currently available, is making a significant contribution to India’s progress on all three dimensions of the energy trilemma, especially in meeting household cooking fuel needs.[4] LPG is a clean cooking fuel with zero global warming potential (i.e., it is not a greenhouse gas as per the classification of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)[5] LPG has the lowest supply and price risks among conventional fuels, and its modular nature makes it rapidly scalable, replaceable, and affordable. Indian households that switched from biomass to LPG saw a substantial reduction in indoor pollution and a consequent reduction in respiratory illness among women and children.[6] Reduced biomass gathering and cooking time as a result of LPG increased the scope for the education and employment for women, who are typically assigned by social norms to domestic chores. LPG adoption has also contributed to increasing energy-use efficiency, one of India’s commitments to the Paris Agreement; about 60 percent of the decline in India’s energy intensity in the last two decades has been attributed to the switch from biomass to LPG.[7] Continued policy push could enable LPG to play a more important role as a bridge fuel through complementing the use of natural gas to increase energy access, security, and sustainability.

In 2022-23, India’s LPG consumption was 28.5 million tons (MT) and production was 12.8 MT.[8] At over 41.1 percent, LPG imports accounted for the largest share of petroleum product imports in 2022-23.[9] Domestic LPG consumption accounted for over 89 percent of total consumption.[10] The adoption of LPG by low-income households in rural and urban India was accelerated through the provision of government subsidies. The welfare gains associated with subsidies for energy access for cooking are often higher than the long-term costs involved in providing the subsidy. Smaller LPG canisters may increase affordability for weekly-wage earners and promote LPG use among poor households, eventually paving the way for an LPG-subsidy phase-out. The decentralised nature of LPG enables it to be transported through multiple modes to access difficult terrains. As a relatively cleaner fuel than petrol and diesel, promoting the use of LPG in the transportation sector will contribute to the reduction of pollution. LPG can also serve as a robust and affordable backup energy source for villages with off-grid renewable-energy solutions. It can also enable small-scale industries in rural areas to flourish. As LPG supply does not require specialised infrastructure, it can be scaled up easily and, under the right conditions, eventually replaced with renewable LPG (rLPG). Easing regulatory burdens on the use of LPG without compromising on safety will create more avenues for the private sector to become involved in the sourcing and distribution of LPG. This may also open up the co-benefit of greater LPG access for domestic and service-sector consumers.

LPG use can be accelerated by international financial assistance along with the use of carbon credits to encourage the shift from biomass to LPG for cooking fuel, which will reduce local pollution, reduce carbon emissions, and ease the subsidy burden on scarce public funds. The upcoming 29th Conference of Parties (COP29) will provide an opportunity for developing countries such as India, which have a record of improving access to clean and modern sources of cooking fuels, to seek international financial assistance and carbon credits for LPG use.

Read the report here.

[1] Luisa Marti, Rosa Puertas, “Sustainable Energy Development Analysis: Energy Trilemma”,

Sustainable Technology and Entrepreneurship, (2022), Volume 1, Issue 1,

[2] Energy Institute, Statistical Review of World Energy 2023,

[3] Sanjeet Singh & Jayaram Ru, “Accessibility, Affordability, and Efficiency of Clean Energy: A Review and Research Agenda,” Environmental Science and Pollution Research International (2022), March 29 (13),

[4] International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), World Bank, World Health Organisation (WHO), Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report, World Bank, 2022,

[5] World Health Organisation, Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Household Fuel Combustion, 2014,

[6] M Fandiño-Del-Rio, JL Kephart JL, KN Williams, et al., “Cardiopulmonary Outcomes and Household Air Pollution (CHAP) Trial Investigators. Household Air Pollution Concentrations after Liquefied Petroleum Gas Interventions in Rural Peru: Findings from a One-Year Randomized Controlled Trial Followed by a One-Year Pragmatic Crossover Trial”, Environmental Health Perspectives (2022) May 130 (5),

[7] International Energy Agency, India Energy Outlook, 2021, Paris

[8] Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell, Ready Reckoner December 2023,

[9] Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell, Ready Reckoner December 2023

[10] Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell, Ready Reckoner December 2023

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Lydia Powell

Lydia Powell

Ms Powell has been with the ORF Centre for Resources Management for over eight years working on policy issues in Energy and Climate Change. Her ...

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Akhilesh Sati

Akhilesh Sati

Akhilesh Sati is a Programme Manager working under ORFs Energy Initiative for more than fifteen years. With Statistics as academic background his core area of ...

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