Fossil Fuel Supply Shortages Behind India's Largest Power Blackout Ever

Kirsten/CC BY-SA 2.0

Following Monday's massive electric grid failure across northern India, and full restoration some 15 hours later, the nation has again been hit by huge power outages, double in size to those just passed.

Huffington Post reports that three regional power grids have failed, covering 20 of 28 states, leaving 620 million people without electricity—of course, that's in addition to the hundreds of millions of poor Indians without access to electricity as matter of course. It's the largest electric grid failure in the world.

Four hours after beginning, power was restored in the northeast part of the nation, with the 45% of the northern grid, and 35% of the eastern grid restored.

The obvious question in all this is how can such a large failure happen. The specific causes are still unknown, one major factor is simple supply and demand, with demand far outstripping supply.

On that, Think Progress quotes the Wall Street Journal:

Fuel shortages are crippling coal and gas-fired plants, forcing them to run below capacity or shut down for long stretches; state utilities have billions of dollars of accumulated losses; and, as has been on stark display, the nation’s creaky grid needs upgrading.

“Unless this government wants to commit political suicide, there’s no way they can ignore this,” said Abhey Yograj, managing director of Tecnova, a consulting firm that advises foreign companies on India.

Part of that accumulated losses stems from power being sold below the cost of production.

As with the first blackout, news of part of the solution to India's electricity and energy needs comes at a symbolic (if coincidental) time: PV Magazine reports that the state of Gujarat is in talks with the International Finance Corporation to develop a 1 GW solar power plant.

Obviously much would need to happen before such a huge single solar power plant actually gets built—and even larger plants have been proposed in Gujarat and come to nothing. But in the long term, it's clear that solar power is the future of energy production, as much in India as anywhere else.

Tags: Electricity | India