India’s energy crisis spread over half the country Tuesday when both its eastern and northern electricity grids collapsed, leaving 600 million people without power in one of the world’s biggest-ever blackouts, reports The Huff Post.
A grid failure cut power supplies in northern India on Monday, hitting rail and road transport for hours in the country’s worst blackout in a decade.
The outage stopped hundreds of trains in their tracks, shuttered the Delhi Metro, darkened traffic lights and left nearly everyone — the police, water utilities, citizens and private businesses — without electricity.
Meanwhile, the power failure has raised serious concerns about India’s outdated infrastructure and the government’s inability to meet an insatiable appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.
Although India is Asia’s third-largest economy, the country still heavily depends on coal for its expanding energy needs, according to CNN. Of the nation’s total installed capacity of 205,340 megawatts, less than 3% comes from nuclear sources, data posted on the power ministry’s website show.
The outage in the eastern grid came on Tuesday, only a day after India’s northern power grid collapsed for several hours. Indian officials restored power several hours later, but at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday the northern grid collapsed again.
Around the same time, the eastern grid failed as well, said S.K. Mohanty, a power official in the eastern state of Orissa. The two grids serve about half India’s population.
Manoranjan Kumar, an economic adviser with the Ministry of Power, said in a telephone interview to The New York Times that the grids had failed and that the ministry was working to figure out the source of the problem.
The power outage was worsened by a weak monsoon that lowered hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures higher, further increasing electricity usage as people seek to cool off.
The new power failure affected people across 13 states — more than the entire population of the European Union. What is more, they raised concerns about India’s outdated infrastructure and its insatiable appetite for energy that the government has been unable to meet.
Indian citizens spent overnight drenched in sweat amid humid weather, and many backup power systems had run out by daybreak. Power was partially restored after about six hours, authorities said.
“When the northern grid failed, we started taking power from eastern and western grids,” Indian Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters. “We will take some power from Bhutan, too,” he said.
However, any connection to the grid still remains a luxury for many Indians. One-third of India’s households do not even have electricity to power a light bulb, according to last year’s census.
In a statement, the country’s top business lobby, the Confederation of Indian Industry, called for immediate reforms in the power sector.
“The increasing gap between the demand and supply of electricity has been a matter for concern,” it said as it urged boosting coal availability to the country’s power plants. “Today’s outage is an urgent reminder for addressing these issues as a priority,” it added.