Recent Blackouts in India Underscore Need for Clean Technology

The recent failures of India’s power grid have not only forced more than 600 million people to survive without electricity – they’ve demonstrated the need for massive public and private investment by India in clean technology and infrastructure.

While international audiences may be hearing about India’s problems with its electricity grid for the first time, those of us who live in India know all too well about our country’s struggles to supply electricity to our rapidly growing population and economy. In fact, Indians long ago became accustomed to rolling blackouts, and many businesses and homes have installed backup generators to deal with them. In an attempt to increase the amount of electricity available, India recently brought several new coal-fired power plants on line. The efficacy of these plants, however, was limited by a combination of the inadequate electricity grid infrastructure and a shortage of available coal.

The recent massive power outages show that the time for such stopgap measures has passed. India’s economic growth and environmental future depend on how quickly the nation can move from an energy supply based on fossil fuels to one based on clean technology. Even before the power outages, India’s outdated power supply was hurting its economy. India’s Planning Commission estimated that the country’s outdated power grid significantly decreases the international competitiveness of India’s companies and has reduced India’s growth rate by 1.2%.

With environmental concerns limiting new coal mines in already-polluted areas and energy policies driven by political expedience rather than practicality, India needs new sources of power to supply the electricity needed by the next generation of its entrepreneurs.

Fortunately, several India-based and foreign firms are well-placed to provide India with the clean technology and renewable power it so badly needs. Firms like mine, Flareum Technologies, are already producing products such as solar-powered water pumps, ATMs, domestic and community cooking systems, and domestic and industrial-size air conditioners. Other firms, such as BrightSource and General Electric, offer the large-scale solar and wind power plants and have the know-how to upgrade India’s aging power grid to accommodate them. Still others are creating the green building technologies and transportation systems India will need to move and house its expanding population, especially its booming middle class. These solutions must be explored as India’s energy and electric grid problems present enormous obstacles to the nation’s continued growth. Additionally, to truly solve our infrastructure problems, we must seek innovative solutions from the United States and elsewhere.

India has the resources – wind, sunshine and, most of all, people – to be a powerhouse of tomorrow’s clean technology industries. Without forward-thinking decisions from its officials and government, though, other nations will surge forward while India lags behind. It is vital for India’s central, state and local governments to promote the development of clean technology solutions, create additional economic incentives for transitions away from fossil fuels and put India on the path toward a future powered by sustainable energy.

Lead image: Blackout via Shutterstock.

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Badal Shah, managing director and CEO of Flareum Technologies, has more than a decade of experience in clean energy. His career in the clean tech sector began in 1997 when he formed Reality Energy Limited, a solar energy company based in Mumbai. He joined the Oxford Office of Ecosecurities in 2000 and later worked as a consultant for the Clean Air Capital Fund in London. In 2005, he founded Enion Management Ltd., which provides consulting services related to climate change, green buildings and renewable energy. Two years later, he invested in several clean tech startup companies, including Flareum Technologies.Mr. Shah has received numerous awards for his leadership in the clean tech field, including Outstanding Entrepreneurship in Alternate Energy from the Mayor of Los Angeles in 2010.He has spoken at many conferences including RENEWTECH India 2011, where he served as session chairman. He has also served as a delegate for the UK’s Climate Change Project Office (CCPO) Trading Mission to numerous countries.Mr. Shah holds a Master of Science in environmental science specializing in climate change policies.

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