India Finally Restores Power to 360 Million People After Grid Collapse

30 Jul

A man works on a power transmission cable in Tezpur, India. Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg

India resumed power supplies to most of the 360 million people plunged into darkness by the worst grid failure in a decade, an outage that shut transport networks, triggered commuter chaos and halted water supplies

“Power supply has been restored to all states and the situation is near normal now,” Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd.’s projects director I.S. Jha said by phone. “We will have complete normalcy once thermal plants resume complete generation.” Jha said Power Grid had bought power from the eastern and western regions to reconnect services.

Businesses and households across much of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan states had to turn to generators, while services on New Delhi’s metro and Indian railways were suspended for several hours. Traffic signals failed, jamming roads.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seeking to secure $400 billion of investment in the power industry in the next five years as he targets an additional 76,000 megawatts in generation by 2017. India has missed every annual target to add electricity production capacity since 1951.

Power cuts are common across swathes of India as the country battles an average 9 percent shortfall in meeting peak power demand that the government says shaves about 1.2 percentage points off annual economic growth. The affected states are responsible for about 37 percent of electricity consumption, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

“This again highlights how poor infrastructure remains the biggest drag on the Indian economy,” said D.H. Pai Panandiker, president of RPG Foundation, an economic policy group based in New Delhi. “The power sector remains too over-regulated. Unless private companies are allowed greater involvement, the problems are going to remain.”

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