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A Power Line to Every Home: India Closes In on Universal Electrification

Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to electrify every household, but gaps remain in rural India

3 min read
Photo: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Businesses such as barbershops are not part of India’s ambitious electrification plan.
Photo: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is crisscrossing his country, declaring that his government has eliminated the nation’s persistent electrification gap. Modi hopes this potent political message will help propel his party to another victory in India’s April and May national elections.

But energy experts and entrepreneurs advise taking the party’s electrification claims with large lumps of salt—particularly any assertions of a nonstop power supply. “Supply quality has improved over time. But 24/7? Definitely not,” says Johannes Urpelainen, who runs the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP) at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. He visited Indian villages in January where power flowed just 2 hours daily.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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