Massive Power Outage Raises Questions for India's Industrial Future

By Ed Silverstein July 31, 2012

Over 600 million people were without power in India on Tuesday after three grids failed there – causing a current crises and a questionable outlook for the technological future of the growing economy.

It is believed to be one of biggest blackouts ever in world history – and took place a day after a smaller power failure occurred. Some half of the nation’s population is affected.

Trains stopped working, traffic lights went dark, and coal miners became trapped in mines. Major businesses, hospitals and airports mostly switched to backup generators – given they are used for less serious outages which sporadically affect the nation. Many employers found employees had problems getting to work with disruption in public transit.

On Monday, a power failure involving the Northern Grid did not cause a major disruption in business, with data centers working on backup electricity, according to a report from CIO. Many of these backup power sources can work for several days.

However, The Associated Press said the power failure demonstrates the nation’s “outdated infrastructure and the government's inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.”

India's Central Electricity Authority says there have been deficits of more than eight percent in power needs during the last few months, according to news reports.

Also, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde claimed some states in India are using more electricity than what they were allotted.

"Everyone overdraws from the grid. Just this morning I held a meeting with power officials from the states and I gave directions that states that overdraw should be punished. We have given instructions that their power supply could be cut," he said.

On Monday, India's northern power grid went out for several hours, was restored and then on Tuesday was down again. The eastern and northeastern grids collapsed too. It was estimated it would take 10 to 12 hours to restore power – if not longer.

"The situation is very grave. We are doing everything to restore power," West Bengal Power Minister, Manish Gupta said.

Matters were made worse recently after a monsoon reduced levels of generation and led to warmer temperatures. That led to more use of air conditioners and other cooling systems.

In contrast to the middle class and wealthy, one-third of India's households do not have electricity in their homes due to poverty.

In response to the power outage, The Economic Times of India recommended that several steps be taken. A few of the steps are to have coal mines produce as much as they can and use smart grids – which are programmed – to maintain grids. States which use excess power should be shut off. Invest in generation, transmission and distribution of power – to meet needs in rural regions.

In a related matter, power outages are not just impacting the developing world. It was reported that there was a power failure in London a few weeks ago. The Level 3 Communications data center in London suffered a power loss, which knocked about 50 businesses offline for close to seven hours.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Contributor

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