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India, as a rising economic power, has undergone significant macro-economic and structural changes in recent decades. The accelerated economic growth in recent times has brought wide-ranging changes in life styles and behaviors of its growing population. At the same time, the population is undergoing a structural change and as this continues in the future, the country has the potential to reap the population dividend. As a consequence of these changes, the country is experiencing increased migration to urban areas, visible signs of consumerism in the fast-growing middle-class segment of the population, and an increasing trend of mimicking international styles. This paper provides an overview of the macro-economic and structural changes in India and considers the implications of such changes on India's residential energy needs. It suggests that life-style changes will have a significant implication on Indian future energy demand but there is a window of opportunity to follow a low-carbon pathway by adopting ‘smart’ technologies and creating efficient infrastructure. However, it requires a coordinated effort at various levels. WIREs Energy Environ 2014, 3:535–539. doi: 10.1002/wene.108

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Conflict of interest: The author has declared no conflicts of interest for this article.