The worst blackout in a decade hit Northern India on Monday forcing 370 million people to go without power, and disabling crucial infrastructure like the train system. The reality is that the country’s growing desire for power — to support its booming economy — is outpacing the country’s ability to build and manage more power.
While this is a huge problem for the country, it’s a massive opportunity for next-generation energy technologies like clean power, and the smart grid. Unlike in the U.S., where clean power and smart grid technologies are often times replacing current infrastructure, in India many times they are the first build-out of energy infrastructure.
I, and others, have said this before. At an industry event last year, investor Ira Ehrenpreis (who backed such investments like Tesla) said it’s the worst time to be in greentech in the U.S. and the best time to be in greentech in many countries outside the U.S.
When I traveled to India last December, rolling blackouts were common place even in the major metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. And beyond the grid, there’s distributed power opportunities, too. Many villages are looking at ways to add distributed solar power and microgrids through groups like Simpa Networks, and Mera Gao Power.
The rapidly growing Indian middle class will soon want to consume similar amounts of power to the U.S. and Europe, and that will require this massive power infrastructure buildout. The country has plans to add 100 GW of power generation over the next five years, and that will be made up by mostly coal and clean power.
But India’s domestic coal industry is a mess. The New York Times described it as having “clumsy policies,” “poor management,” “environmental concerns,” and “retail electricity prices that are lower than the cost of producing power.” Eighty percent of domestic coal production is managed by the government-controlled Coal India.
That’s why solar and wind power could thrive in India. India is expected to install 3 GW of solar by 2016, compared with the 54 MW of solar installed in 2010.
Next-gen energy startups and companies — if India isn’t on your radar, it should be.
For more on my writing about India and energy check out: