By THE NEW YORK TIMES
India’s power outages this week were the nation’s largest, but they reflect a long-standing national problem.
âIndia has long struggled to provide enough electricity to light its homes and power its industry around the clock,â Vikas Bajaj wrote this April. âIn recent years, the government and private sector sought to change that by building scores of new power plants,â he wrote, but that campaign âis now running into difficulties because the country cannot get enough fuel – principally coal – to run the plants.â
Clumsy policies, poor management and environmental concerns have kept fuel production low, he wrote, and the power’s sector’s problems have âsubstantially contributed to a second year of slowing economic growth in India, to an estimated 7 percent this year, from nearly 10 percent in 2010.â
Before this week’s massive outages that covered several state, one city in particular already had severe problems this year. âIn northern India, where the mercury crossed 40 degrees Celsius – 104 degrees Fahrenheit – every day for the last month, Gurgaon, an outsourcing megacity that is home to more than 1.5 million people, is facing an acute power crisis,â Pamposh Raina wrote in July. The reason: five of the six plants that supply Gurgaon weren’t experiencing technical malfunctions, and the sixth was out of coal, power officials said.
A number of new initiatives have been tried across India over the years to address the power shortage:
Even after the nuclear disaster in Japan last year, Indian officials said they would move ahead with ambitious nuclear plans, Heather Timmons and Vikas Bajaj wrote in March of 2011. âIndia, with 20 nuclear reactors already in operation, plans to spend an estimated $150 billion adding dozens of new ones around the country. Its forecast calls for nuclear power to supply about a quarter of the country’s electricity needs by 2050, a tenfold increase from now,â they wrote.
Later in 2011, Mr. Bajaj wrote about âIndia’s ambitious plan to use solar energy to help modernize its notoriously underpowered national electricity grid, and reduce its dependence on coal-fired power plants.â The plans include huge solar farms in western India, where dozens of developers, âbecause of aggressive government subsidies and a large drop in the global price of solar panels, are covering India’s northwestern plains – including this village of 2,000 people – with gleaming solar panels.â
So-called âhusk power,â or electricity from methane gas released by rice husks, could also hold hope for rural India,
Andrew Revkin wrote in 2009.
Electricity innovators were aimed at India as early as the 1950s, according to this article that ran in The New York Times in July of 1958. It introduced an American-designed device that âmay revolutionize the live of ru ral India.â The invention? An âelectric generator and pumped, powered by bullocks.â