Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Worst blackout in history - Over 600 million people in India affected

Nation-wide blackout, affected more than half the population.

A familiar news to you? I bet my money you won't be totally surprised (although perhaps totally annoyed) by what happened in India yesterday.

This was the worst blackout in the second most populous nation's history involving more than half the country, as an electrical grid collapse in 14 states - then spread to a total 19. The incident deprived more than 600 million people of power. Some journalists put the figure as 620 to 670million people.

Massive traffic jam in New Delhi, following a power outage (one of the world's worst) that spread over half of India, July 31, 2012. Photo: AP/Rajest Kumar Singh

It is that bad, but how bad?

If you live in Sabah, Malaysia, you will understand how it feels to be deprived of power supply on a frequent basis. Recently in April 2012, we experienced a state-wide blackout for almost the whole day and in some areas, power was only restored completely the next day.

One hour of blackout is bad. What more with going through the day in total darkness; and added to that, a bonus of another half a day during the next.

In India's case, many were still without power on the second day. The blackout, one of the largest in global history by the number of people affected, dramatically underlined the concerns industry leaders have raised for years — that the nation's horribly inefficient power sector is dragging on the economy and could undermine India's longer-term ambition to become an industrialised nation.

What caused the blackout?

The power grid collapsed because some states apparently drew more power than they were authorised to do to meet the rising demand during the summer.

According to NDTV, the blackout was allegedly triggered after four states - Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan drew much more than their assigned share of power. Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have denied they exceeded their limit, though. Uttar Pradesh is said to over-drew its quota from the Northern Grid by 1200 MW, nearly a third of what a city like Delhi is entitled to in a day.

Blackouts are a frequent occurrence in many Indian cities because of shortage of power supply and an old-fashioned electricity grid. Too bad, this the common excuse/explanation offered by the power utilities everywhere. That's us included.

And its implication?


There is no need to even look at 'what would its implication be' unless people start looking at the underlying problems/issues, such as what the New York Times reported:

[...] For a country considered a rising economic power, Blackout Tuesday — which came only a day after another major power failure — was an embarrassing reminder of the intractable problems still plaguing India: inadequate infrastructure, a crippling power shortage and, many critics say, a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership.

India’s coalition government, already battered for its stewardship of a wobbling economy, again found itself on the defensive, as top ministers could not definitively explain what had caused the grid failure or why it had happened on consecutive days. Theories for the extraordinarily extensive blackout across much of northern India included excessive demands placed on the grid from certain regions, due in part to low monsoon rains that forced farmers to pump more water to their fields, and the less plausible possibility that large solar flares had set off a failure.

By Tuesday evening, power had been restored in most regions, and many people in major cities barely noticed the disruption, because localized blackouts are so common that many businesses, hospitals, offices and middle-class homes are equipped with backup diesel fuel generators.
“This is a huge failure,” said Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. “It is a management failure as well as a failure of policy. It is policy paralysis in the power sector.” [...]

Time to reflect

The situation and power supply issue in Malaysia, and particularly in Sabah is somewhat similar in the India case in the sense that we are facing shortage of supply and the generally antiquated electricity grid/equipment. We can always give excuses and say that we fare better when bench-marked against India but that would be more of a 'feel-good' kind of assessment rather than the absolute meaning of the word 'better'.

It's time to be firm and aggressive in dealing with power supply problems. Allocate more fund in the coming budget preparation as electricity is now a need rather than want.


doc said...

saw it on tv
got stuck in a bad Indian traffic jam while we were in Delhi and that was not during a black out
cant imagine the traffic during the black out!

AVCr8teur said...

I heard about this big news in the U.S. Like us, there needs to be infrastructure upgrades, but money and politics get in the way.

LifeRamblings said...

Hope the Indians will be smart enough to tackle the problems and figure out ways to avoid similar breakdowns in the future.