There is a continuing controversy over what constitutes energy poverty and whether it is synonymous with income poverty or lack of access to electricity. Several approaches are used to define and measure energy poverty, taking into account both demand and supply of alternative energy sources, including biomass, LPG, and electricity. But as yet, no consensus has emerged for measuring and monitoring energy poverty and explaining why and how it differs from income poverty.
Like income poverty, energy poverty may be defined by the minimum energy consumption needed to sustain lives. But unlike income poverty—based on the concept of a poverty line defined by the minimum consumption of food and non-food items necessary to sustain a livelihood—energy poverty lacks a well-established energy poverty line to determine the minimum amount of energy needed for living. Current indicators used by such organizations as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA) measure energy poverty indicators as outputs (e.g., lack of electricity connections) rather than outcomes (e.g., electricity consumption and associated welfare gains).