Although electricity has been brought back to India a day after a massive blackout caused darkness to 620 million Indians, the south Asian country is expected to continue to grapple with power problems in the next two decades.
India's electric grid is old and deteriorating.
An International Energy Agency study estimated that 150 million Indians would still be without electricity by 2030 which would be half of the current 300 million residents who are not linked to the national power grid.
The massive blackout highlighted the power crisis looming over the electricity-hungry nation whose economic expansion the past few years is the envy of struggling and richer European Union members. Due to aging power infrastructure and weak national policies as well as higher demand for energy on account of the country's robust economy, doubts are now in place if India could sustain the momentum it started which would help bring millions of Indians out of poverty.
Experts estimate that India's infrastructure deficiency is shaving two percentage points from the country's impressive gross domestic product growth.
Reports said that current timetable to fix India's electricity supply is decades away, the result of 60 years of missed investment targets. At present, India loses 27 per cent of the power generated through pilferage and system losses. At peak usage, supply is short of demand by 9 per cent, according to the Central Electricity Authority.
Bloomberg foresees Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordering the fast track approval of coal mining and power plant projects. However, I.A. Khan, energy adviser of the Planning Commission said it would take years to build those power ventures. Analysts agree with his forecast.
"The blackout highlights the big underlying issue India face in terms of infrastructure quality. To keep the lights on, India needs to add power capacity, build robust transmission and distribution systems, ensure fuel supply and transport and reform power pricing. Most of that is expensive," Bloomberg quoted Sanford C. Bernstein & Co analyst Michael Parker.
Power Secretary P. Uma Shankar estimated that $400 billion investments or 40 per cent of the country's total spending planned on infrastructure over the next five years is needed for India to make up for the electricity generation gap that keeps on increasing as the country's appetite for power keeps on growing to meet the needs of its more than 1 billion headcount.
Tuesday's experience, which hit 20 of India's 28 states, is not new to the country which frequently suffers from power outages that lasts for up to 10 hours, especially during summer when demand is higher as the temperature hits 45 degrees Celsius.
To integrate India's five electrical regions, Power Grid - the national grid - plans to spend $18 billion in the next five years to double its capacity which would still fall short of growing demand.
As a result of the blackout, the prime minister appointed Veerapa Moily on Wednesday to be the new Power Minister. As part of his new job, Mr Moily initiated a probe into the cause of the power failure.
While the power outage affected New Delhi, the nation's capital, and caused losses that run into millions of dollars for Indian business, the Confederation of Indian Industries said the blackout did not affect Mumbai, the financial centre, and Bangalore and Hyderabad which host outsourcing companies that service western nations.
"The situation is a grim reminder of the humongous task we have on our hands in improving the infrastructure facilities. While maintaining grid discipline is important, we cannot undermine the need to ramp up capacity in the power sector on a war footing," The Wall Street Journal quoted R.V. Kanoria, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Australia Bids Adieu to Adam Spencer's Mornings on ABC's "702 Breakfast" Show [PHOTOS]
- Top 10 Hottest Celebrities with Shocking Weight Loss (And Find Out Their Secrets!) [PHOTOS]
- Mars Curiosity Rover Photos: UFO Hunter Spots Strange 'Ruins,' 'Missile' [PHOTOS, VIDEO]
- Miranda Kerr Exposes Breasts to Crew, Wardrobe Malfunction 'Deliberate Accident?' [PHOTOS]