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India is one of the world’s biggest emerging economies. In part, at least, what it’s trying to emerge from is the dark.
Almost a fourth of the country’s population of 1.26 billion people have no access to the nation’s electrical grid, and even those who are connected face frequent blackouts, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
Now the government of India’s newly installed prime minister, Narendra Modi, is promising “round-the-clock power for all by 2022.” It cites a report quoting India’s new energy minister, Piyush Goyal, as blaming the continuing electricity problems squarely on Modi’s predecessor.
“The previous government failed to take crucial decisions to expand grid connectivity,” Goyal was quoted. “The sector is in a mess.”
In the past few years, the IEEE says it has observed several problems in the Indian power system, including too little generation of power and insufficient transmission capacity. And it pointed to two broad blackouts in 2012, one of which cut off more than 600 million people -- more than any other blackout in history.
Despite Goyal’s criticism, India’s previous government, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also addressed the problem, including upgrading major transmission lines linking India’s five regional grids from 400 kilovolts to 765 kilovolts.
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Sing’s government also supported wider use of renewable energy, including an initiative to install solar-powered irrigation pumps. And it helped pay for this irrigation effort for more than 10,000 farmers in the poor and arid state of Rajasthan.
During the same time, while Modi was the chief minister for Gujarat, he presided over upgrades in electrical grids that led it to become a net exporter of electricity, preventing the 2012 blackouts from spreading.
His state administration also used separate distribution conduits for industrial, agricultural and domestic destinations, ensuring that commercial users got top priority.
But whether Modi can apply such successes nationwide is another question. Since taking office on May 26, Uttar Pradesh, home to one-sixth of India’s population, has suffered blackouts of up to 12 hours a day because of searing heat that on June 7 reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com