Assessing health and environmental impacts of measures to supplant kerosene use in developing country households: Lighting

Nicholas L. Lam explains his YSSP project work on evaluating the potential benefits of reduced kerosene use to meet lighting demand in developing countries plus the viable alternatives for its replacement.

N. Lam

N. Lam


Reductions of emissions from household fuel combustion in developing countries have been proposed as important actions to decrease short-lived climate forcers and the global disease burden. An estimated 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and an even greater number have unreliable access. To fill gaps in lighting demand, households frequently rely on simple kerosene-fueled lamps that are inefficient in terms of combustion and providing light services. Growing evidence is revealing that kerosene emissions may be more harmful to health and climate than previously understood. Despite the potential benefits of reduced kerosene use and viable alternatives for replacement, there have been few efforts to make an in-depth evaluation of kerosene demand for lighting, how it might be affected by fuel policies, and the role of currently available alternatives.


A nationally representative survey for India was used to evaluate household kerosene lighting demand trends across subpopulations and electricity access groups. Results were then used to develop a household lighting demand model, accounting for kerosene and electricity, differences across sub-populations, and population and income growth over time. The demand model was linked to an energy system model (MESSAGE) to evaluate how various policy actions would affect kerosene demand. Finally, using demand scenario results, we used the GAINS model to evaluate changes in black carbon emissions, ambient particulate matter concentrations, and selected health outcomes.


Survey results indicate that kerosene lighting accounts for approximately 65% (5000-6000 Gg/year) of residential kerosene consumption in India. The share of kerosene consumption by electrified homes with unreliable electricity is approximately equivalent to the households relying on kerosene as a primary lighting fuel. Demand curves across electricity access groups indicate that the service cost of kerosene lighting is consistently higher than that of electricity by a factor of 1.5-3.0. The relationship between access group demand curves, however, changes depending on the service metric assumed to drive household demand.


Preliminary findings highlight the importance of considering populations with unreliable electricity when evaluating residential lighting in developing countries. Most efforts to evaluate the impacts of kerosene lighting have previously considered only non-electrified populations; however, this may be significantly underestimating activity demand. Demand curves for kerosene and electricity for light provide population-derived break-even points for which to compare decentralized electricity and small-scale solar for lighting. Finally, when considering replacement technologies to meet light demand in kerosene-using homes, service metrics used in industrialized countries (e.g., lumen-hr) may not necessarily capture household perceptions of service.


Nicholas Lamm of the University of California, Berkely, is a US citizen. He was funded by IIASA's United States National Member Organization and worked in the Energy (ENE) Program during YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 19 August 2015


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