Massive Blackout in India. 600+ Million with No Power. One More Example of why Renewable Smart Grid’s Time has Come

August 1, 2012

If the whole United States went dark, would we do something to address our dependence on centralized power and an aging grid?
In the third world, the leapfrogging has already begun.

Greentechmedia:

Like the United States and China, more than half of India’s power comes from coal-fired power plants, but in India’s case, it hasn’t been able to get enough coal lately, driving up prices. Meanwhile, poor rains have left the country’s hydroelectric dams — some 19 percent of its generation mix — without the water they need to generate power. Overall, India’s peak power demand has been outstripping supply by about 9 percent during the latest summer peaks, when air conditioning, a mark of an upwardly mobile lifestyle, starts to kick in.

All of that inefficiency and waste has a price. The Wall Street Journal reports that India’s poor infrastructure consistently shaves about 2 percent from its annual GDP growth. India’s fast-growing technology sector has had to build its own power plants, essentially, to make sure facilities don’t break down or sit idle. Most of that backup power comes from diesel generators, which are inefficient and pollute the neighborhoods they run in.

Smart Grid From the Bottom Up

But at the same time, all that backup power could be one key to unlocking India’s smart grid potential. Indeed, microgrids — islands of power generation and consumption that can run themselves, or maybe help the grid when it’s stressed — are how India’s grid is going to get smart, at least in the short term.

Microgrids can range from showcase technical campuses like Cisco and Wipro’s Lavasa City “e-city” project outside Mumbai, to commercial-scale business offerings like the oneEchelon is doing in a high-end residential development in Hyderabad. Most of India’s commercial and industrial buildings have backup power of some kind. Adding metering and control capabilities could help justify drawing that power more often — perhaps, preemptively to avoid stress during peak demand times.

Solar Power to the Rescue?

In the meantime, India’s potential to become the next hot solar power market may be cut short by an inadequate grid infrastructure. Dr. Murray Cameron, COO of Phoenix Solar AG, told us in May that India’s high-voltage grid was relatively stable, making large-scale solar farm integration tenable. But the “low-voltage grid is in a sad state, (and) the medium-voltage grid is shaky,” he said.

Perhaps solar-equipped microgrids could help solve the problem. India is emerging as a hotbed for off-grid solar power, with the potential for installing more than 1 gigawatt per year by 2016, according to GTM Research and Bridge to India. More than a third of the country lacks electricity at all, making rural micropower projects a big target.

11 Responses to “Massive Blackout in India. 600+ Million with No Power. One More Example of why Renewable Smart Grid’s Time has Come”


  1. […] If the whole United States went dark, would we do something to address our dependence on centralized power and an aging grid? In the third world, the leapfrogging has already begun. Greentechmedia:…  […]

  2. daryan12 Says:

    Greenman,

    Of course the fossil fuel supporters will argue that these power cuts are all the fault of renewables (e.g. those dams running dry, of course it can’t be climate change to blame!). They’ll be lobbying for more coal fired stations.

    And equally the nuclear lobby in India will be doing the same. I came across this crazy indian pro-nuke site that essentially tried to argue that Wind power “kills babies” because of its high cost (ah! actually I think its nuclear that has the high cost).

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      Nuclear is much slower to deploy,and it looks like India needs help pronto.

    • otter17 Says:

      At least in America, when you strip away all subsidies, nuclear is a loser on a cost basis. Still, there are some promising developments in that arena, just not enough to put all bets on it, in my opinion.

      • daryan12 Says:

        otter & skeptictmac,

        Couldn’t agree more but you try hammering such facts into the fact opaque minds of nuclear energy supporters!

        I used to be a fan of nuclear power, but became increasingly skeptical of it as I learnt more and more about it, notably the high costs, slow build rate and the huge question mark hanging over what we do with all the nuclear waste.

        While I still haven’t taken nuclear off the table, indeed I question how some countries will meet their C02 targets without some use of nuclear power.

        But its important to be clear about what nuclear can do and what it can’t do, and certainly if India wants a quick fix to its current energy problems, nuclear is not the answer.

        Unfortunately, if you look at my blog you’ll see how I’m frequently forced to debunk various myths that the Nuclear cheerleaders come up with (fast reactors, thorium, modular reactors, dilithium crystals, etc.). Like the climate skeptics, they just exhibit “selective deafness” to anything that doesn’t support their little fantasy and hop onto any obscure fact that supports their position.

  3. neilrieck Says:

    This failure is no surprise since the number one industry in India is residential air conditioning. Once you get an IT job in an air conditioned building in New Delhi (affected by the outage) or Mumbai (not yet affected by the outage), you will want to have cooling at home just to get a good night’s sleep.

    At an energy seminar in Waterloo (Ontario) last year I remember hearing a representative from India state that they intended to build 100 nuclear reactors. With the current worries about nuclear proliferation, India should really consider solar and/or wind. If they did then their current power problems could begin to see improvement in 3 months rather than 5-7 years.

      • daryan12 Says:

        I’ve got a old copy of a book, “Energy” by G. J. Aubrecht, sitting on my bookshelf. In one chapter (titled: “too you’re scatter utility outlets go”) in which he laments the decisions taken in the united states to structure the electricity grid on a centralized (fossil fuel heavy) grid dependent on a few large power stations, while in the early days of the US electricity grid it was more focused on lots of scattered small energy sources connected up to local grid system, often anchored by a hydroelectric source (i.e. a small dam for example).

        Anyone in the US coping with a power cut to you’re air-con will quickly realize what he was going on about. Equally a micro-grid system with a heavy renewables mix (perhaps anchored by hydro, CHP or biomass based power generation) might be the solution that India is looking for too.


  4. India is 4th in installed wind power. India’s installed solar is only 19th, but they have committed US$19B to producing 20 GW of solar power by 2020. India has a Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, although that’s less exciting after discovering that they have a ministry for everything – and then some.

    This is an effervescent video produced by the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association….

    http://bit.ly/N25y67


  5. […] If the whole United States went dark, would we do something to address our dependence on centralized power and an aging grid? In the third world, the leapfrogging has already begun. Greentechmedia:…  […]


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