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Lessons Learnt? India's Blackouts Reveal a Deep Depedence on Coal

By Kathy Yang - Associated Renewable, Inc.

India recently suffered a crippling infrastructural setback as major blackouts affected nearly 670 million people and left over half of the nation’s population in the dark without electricity. The collapse of three of five government-operated electrical grid systems in two consecutive days has resulted in the world’s two worst blackouts in human history.

India's electric towersThe severe cascades of faltering power grids have prompted the world to recognize that India is suffering from energy problems. As a developing nation whose population is increasing at an exponential pace, there is an alarming gap between its people’s demands for energy and the amount it is able to supply. This gap is growing and the consequences can become even more severe than the blackouts that have occurred this week.

India’s power minister, Veerappa Moily, declared that investigations were under way to determine what caused the outages and that the government would now allow such an incidence to occur again. He also cautioned, however, that India’s power crisis has no immediate solution. But therein lays the problem, because the nation is in a state of desperation for readily available power.

A huge component of the issue is that India relies mainly on coal for its power generation and the coal supply is controlled by a near-monopoly. A recent survey revealed that the vast majority of India’s coal-fueled plants are now in critical mode. Nearly all of the 89 coal-fired power stations had less than seven days of coal stock, a critical level. As of earlier this week, eighteen of the plants had “super-critical” stockpiles, or less than four days of supply. On top of that, it has been reported that many of the country’s power plants were running below capacity.

High energy prices and high subsidies have combined into a detrimental mixture for India. The second most populated nation is suffering from power scarcity and its most convenient solution is to draw from the cheapest energy they possibly can to propel growth—indigenous coal. But continuing this reliance on coal and further centralizing the energy infrastructure would be a mistake.

India's solar-powered cellphone towerExperts are now urging India to turn towards renewable energy sources to fuel the nation’s power supply. For the first time in the nation, solar energy is less expensive than burning diesel. Quick mends to patch up constant outages will not fix India’s problem in the long run. Addressing the long term, the world’s fourth largest energy consumer will need to find a way to bolster its supply and modernize its delivery.                                                    Above: India's solar-powered cellphone tower

One example of a potential renewable energy-powered source in India exists in the village of Meerwada. Meerwada consists of one of the nation’s 40% that is outside the reach of the national power grid. Before U.S. solar firm SunEdison picked the village as a testing ground for its business models, the people were struggling to carry out their everyday activities.  Now, villagers are living more efficient lifestyles thanks to the hi-tech solar panels installed. Although SunEdison paid for the initial costs of the panels, the installations pay for themselves in the long run and there is already a rapid fall in solar energy costs. Meanwhile, the price of coal-fueled power is rising, and officials should no longer ignore the possibility that India’s best bet rests in renewable energy.


Associated Renewable sees the potential for large-scale renewable energy adoption in the Indian subcontinent and has actively sought to capitalize on it by deploying renewable energy technology including solar street lighting in Sri Lanka. Through renewable energy project financing, Associated Renewable consistently offers sustainable, cost-effective solutions by locating and raising capital; providing tax sponsorships; assisting in grants and rebates procurement and; locating renewable energy certificates (RECs) & tax credits for clients to embrace innovative technologies.

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For further information on Associated Renewable’s energy solutions, please visit



Related Article: Coal Mining Threatens India’s Dwindling Tiger Population, Report Warns. Click this (NBC News) link to read how India’s continued coal dependence has the potential to be disastrous for its wildlife, since “80% of the country’s coal reserves” also have “35% of its tigers”.




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