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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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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