Decent living energy

Narasimha D. Rao discusses his two postdoctoral studies on i) quantifying the energy requirements for a given universal set of living standards in three developing countries and ii) using an integrated approach to explain income inequality. 

N. Rao

N. Rao

Energy thresholds for basic living standards


There is limited understanding of the energy requirements needed outside households to provide safe water, adequate shelter, adequate food, education, health services, mobility, and other basic living standards. This project fills this gap by developing and implementing an analytical framework [1] that quantifies these energy requirements for a given universal set of living standards in different regional conditions and future technology pathways, with a focus on India, China, and Brazil.


I utilize empirical statistical methods on global datasets to determine the material requirements of basic services, and life cycle and input-output analysis to calculate embedded energy intensities of construction and operation of the infrastructure required to provide services.


Ongoing research suggests that the infrastructure construction requires only a fraction of the energy (10% or less) of the energy required to provide ongoing services. The energy needs to provide decent living likely to exceed the annual national energy consumption of these countries.

Explaining Income Inequality. An Integrated Approach


Previous studies from various disciplines have attempted to explain income inequality trends within countries with respect to particular influences and regions, and with limited robustness to income inequality indicators and varied estimation methods. We undertake a comprehensive assessment of a wide range of indicators, focusing on technology, education distribution, and trade, which provides a basis to understand future trends and inform development policies.


We employ regression analysis on a global pooled panel dataset using multiple inequality measures and data sources to ensure robustness.


Ongoing research suggests that income inequality increases with technological change, and reduces with literacy improvements. The distribution of formal education in the labor force and trade both have an influence, although their significance and relationship vary by region.


[1] Rao ND, Baer P. (2012), Decent Living Emissions: A Conceptual Framework, Sustainability 4, 656-681.


Narasimha D. Rao is a US citizen. He is conducting his postdoctoral research in the Energy (ENE) Program of IIASA and receives funding from IIASA.

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Last edited: 15 April 2014


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