Development Strategies for Rural Renewable Energy in China and India: A Comparison

International Journal of Applied Sustainable Development (ISSN: 1742-2620) Volume 1 Issue 1

Huang Liming

Jinan University, Shipai, Guangzhou 510632, People’s Republic of China.


David Pollard

University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland, UK and Jinan University, PRC. E-mail D.Pollard@abertay.ac.uk .


This paper compares development strategies for various types of rural renewable energy (RE) in China and India. Such a comparison is highly relevant because both countries face enormous rural energy challenges. Additionally, both countries have a large part of their rural population without access to modern fuels, with overall low income and consumption levels, poor protection of environment and health and an urgent need to accelerate economic growth. To meet increasing domestic requirements for energy of a sustainable level, China and India have been paying increasing attention to the development of RE systems.

Both countries have made significant efforts to design, develop and undertake field demonstrations and to implement large-scale use of a number of RE products and systems and it could be argued, therefore, that important progress has been made. The underlying strategies and methods through which China and India have achieved success in developing rural RE are compared and discussed and some implications for rural economic development and for policy-makers are identified.

Keywords: Development Strategies, Renewable Energy, Rural, China, India.


Development of sustainable energy in the rural areas of China is fundamental to the rural economy and the improvement of people’s living standards. Over 860 million people live in rural China, of whom 72 million have no electricity (International Statistical Yearbook, 1998; Battelle Memorial Institute,1998; China Government, 2000a) and around 70 million live in poverty (China Government, 2000a). It is important that a capability exists for the development of RE allied to local conditions; for example, rural energy can provide electricity for the remote northwest areas and coastal islands, which are at present without or short of electricity, and can assist these areas to fight poverty through the creation of energy enterprises which, in turn, make a contribution to local economic development. Although rural China possesses abundant energy resources and has achieved remarkable progress in the development of RE, its current energy structure is primarily based on non-renewable fossil fuels. This inevitably leads to the continuing depletion of these energy resources and to emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

The problem of energy development in rural India has many similarities to that in rural China. Over 700 million people live in rural areas, with only 31% of rural households having access to electricity supplies, and the per capita consumption of electricity in rural areas being only 135kwh. More than 350 million people in India currently live in poverty (www.undp.ogr.in/programm/rrlenrgy/renganl.htm.), with people in rural areas largely dependent on fuel-wood, crop residues and cattle dung to meet their basic energy needs for cooking and heating purposes. With mounting pressure on fuel requirements caused by an increasing population, the consumption of fuel-wood has far exceeded its manageable supply, thereby leading to deforestation (Mitra 1998) and frequently also to desertification. The age-old practice of burning cattle dung and crop residues for cooking purposes is depriving the agricultural land of much needed manure, with a consequent loss of soil fertility. Additionally, the inefficient burning of biomass fuel materials in traditional chulhas creates high levels of in-door air pollution, which causes eye- and respiratory-related diseases among women and children in these areas.

To improve the living environment of these people and at the same time protect their health, the Indian government has for many years paid considerable attention to the development of rural RE. The importance of the increasing need to provide RE sources was recognised by the government as far back as the early 1970s and, since that time, significant efforts have gone into the design, development, field demonstration and large-scale use of several RE products and systems.

Although the desire for renewable sources has received further impetus since 1992, with the establishment of the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES), much work remains to be done. Currently, only 2963 MW, representing about 3% of the total grid capacity, is based on renewable sources. The infrastructure for large-scale development and development of renewables is relatively very small compared with more conventional forms of energy, which were significantly developed over the same period.

Enormous challenges face both countries regarding the design and implementation of suitable strategies to accelerate the development of rural RE. While some strategies may exist in similar forms in both countries, it is recognised that others will be more country-specific. In this comparative study, successful policies and strategies adopted by both governments have been identified, together with the possibility of one country utilising models developed by the other.

The remaining sections of this paper are presented as follows: in section 2 we analyse the present situation of sustainable energy resources and development in India and China. In section 3, we deal with development policies and strategies for rural renewables in both countries. In section 4, we compare Indian development policies and strategies for rural renewables with those formulated in China and discuss the potential impact on rural economic development, before our concluding remarks in section 5.

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