After decades of research on the subject of energy poverty and access and its impact on human development, the issue has finally gained global attention and commitment through the UN Secretary General's initiative on Sustainable Energy for All. However, the issue of what constitutes energy access and how such access can be supported by efficient subsidies remains a key question that does not have simple answers. At what point along the energy consumption and income spectrum does the energy access problem cease to be one of public policy, thereby letting the market take over? Using data from an extensive survey carried out by the Government of India, this paper highlights the complexities and inadequacies of using a normative consumption based approach to determine the scope and scale of interventions required. Factoring in the environmental and social pillars of sustainable development when defining access to modern energy forms would also significantly inform the level of effort involved in meeting the goal of energy access to all.