Inequality in air pollution mortality from power generation in India

Shayak Sengupta, Sumil K. Thakrar, Kirat Singh, Rahul Tongia, Jason D. Hill, Ines M.L. Azevedo, Peter J. Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


India’s coal-heavy electricity system is the world’s third largest and a major emitter of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, it remains a focus of decarbonization and air pollution control policy. Considerable heterogeneity exists between states in India in terms of electricity demand, generation fuel mix, and emissions. However, no analysis has disentangled the expected, state-level spatial differences and interactions in air pollution mortality under current and future power sector policies in India. We use a reduced-complexity air quality model to evaluate annual PM2.5 mortalities associated with electricity production and consumption in each state in India. Furthermore, we test emissions control, carbon tax, and market integration policies to understand how changes in power sector operations affect ambient PM2.5 concentrations and associated mortality. We find poorer, coal-dependent states in eastern India disproportionately face the burden of PM2.5 mortality from electricity in India by importing deaths. Wealthier, high renewable energy states in western and southern India meanwhile face a lower burden by exporting deaths. This suggests that as these states have adopted more renewable generation, they have shifted their coal generation and associated PM2.5 mortality to eastern areas. We also find widespread sulfur emissions control decreases mortality by about 50%. Likewise, increasing carbon taxes in the short term reduces annual mortality by up to 9%. Market reform where generators between states pool to meet demand reduces annual mortality by up to 8%. As India looks to increase renewable energy, implement emissions control regulations, establish a carbon trading market, and move towards further power market integration, our results provide greater spatial detail for a federally structured Indian electricity system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014005
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Grant Nos. DGE-1252522 and DGE-1745016. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This publication was developed as part of the Center for Air, Climate, and Energy Solutions (CACES), which was supported under assistance Agreement No. R835873 awarded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has not been formally reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EPA. The EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication. This work was supported by the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (SES-1463492) through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University. Funding for this research was supported by the National Security Education Program’s Boren Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • India
  • air pollution
  • dispatch
  • electricity
  • emissions


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