India’s Power Outages: Electrical and Otherwise

Two Power Outages in IndiaIf you’ve flipped on the radio or caught the news recently you’ve probably heard something about India’s recent woes on the power front. In a word, their electricity (or lack thereof) situation over there is dire. Apparently, they’ve suffered two widespread blackouts in as many days, and a quick fix doesn’t appear to be in the offing any time soon.

To provide a bit of perspective, I caught a snippet of a broadcast in which an affected resident described how the heat was so overbearing that he actually slept in his car, while cycling the AC on and off to escape from the elements. He was one of 670 million people without power at one point or another. Yes, we’re talking MILLIONS — about 10% of the world’s population. And, that’s no small potatoes.

Certainly, unrelenting air-conditioner use is nothing new in sweltering India, though these particular outages are being blamed on state officials for exceeding the allotted amount of power that was scheduled for their areas. In other words, they took more electricity than they paid for and to which they were entitled. Evidently, there is no way to put a “cap” on the amount of electricity that a city or region draws, as the electricity flows freely through the transmission lines. It appears to be a bit of an “honor system” — and one that wasn’t met. This outages definitely speak to the delicate balance of supply and demand that must be maintained by all parties involved – those producing electricity and those consuming it.

This outage is also significant because it illustrates the impact that the environment can have on our electrical supply. The need for more power was a result of a drought that has affected much of India. Low rainfall levels and thus lower water levels caused a decrease in the amount of electricity that could be produced by hydroelectric dams, and farmers were using more electricity than normal to pump additional water for crops suffering amid the drought.

Further, many states in India have been known for undercharging for the electricity they deliver, which is largely responsible for states using more energy than they can reasonably afford. This outage has prompted officials to charge consumers more for electricity, which should also reduce the amount of electricity they use. Apparently, you don’t value that which you don’t earn.
Despite this debacle being blamed on state officials, I’d say these events underscore the role that we all play in preventing outages (weather, notwithstanding). The small actions we take in our solitary lives — such as flipping off a light switch or turning off your AC when you leave your home — are in fact cumulative, and we must each do our part individually for the better good.





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