(AP) -- An estimated 620 million people lost state-provided electricity when
India's northern, eastern and northeastern grids failed Tuesday
afternoon. It followed Monday's failure of the northern grid, which left
370 million people powerless.
Electricity workers struggled
throughout the day Tuesday to return power to the 20 affected states,
restoring most of the system within hours of the failure. India's new
Power Minister Veerappa Moily told reporters that by Wednesday morning
power had been fully restored across the country.
Moily, who took
over the top power ministry position Tuesday, said an investigation had
begun and he did not want to point fingers or speculate about the cause.
officials said the blackout might have been the result of states
drawing too much power from the grid. Some analysts dismissed that
explanation, saying if that was the cause, such collapses would happen
all the time.
The top elected official from Uttar Pradesh, India's
largest state, denied that excess power drawn by his state had put the
northern grid under stress.
"Uttar Pradesh has no role in the grid
failure. My state is not drawing more electricity than its allotted
quota," Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav told reporters.
states to stick to a disciplined withdrawal of power. "If they
overdraw, this is the result. They can see for themselves. The entire
grid will go black."
The Confederation of Indian Industry said the
two outages cost business hundreds of millions of dollars, though they
did not affect the financial center of Mumbai and the global outsourcing
powerhouses of Bangalore and Hyderabad in the south.
the group demanded the widespread reform of India's power sector, which
has been unable to keep up with the soaring demand for electricity as
the economy has expanded and Indians grow more affluent and energy
The power minister cautioned that the power crisis has no
quick solution, saying the government was looking at immediate and
longer-term measures to address power scarcity.
Part of the
problem is that India relies on coal for more than half its power
generation and the coal supply is controlled by a state near-monopoly
that is widely considered a shambles.
A recent survey showed
nearly all the coal-fueled plants had less than seven days of coal
stock, a critical level, and many of the country's power plants were
running below capacity, according to Samiran Chakraborty, head of
research at Standard Chartered, a financial services company. Government
bureaucracy has made it difficult to bring more plants online.
addition, vast amounts of power bleeds out of India's antiquated
distribution system or is pirated through unauthorized wiring. Farmers,
with a guarantee of free electricity that is driving many state electric
boards to bankruptcy, have no incentive to conserve energy.
power deficit was worsened this year by a weak monsoon that lowered
hydroelectric generation, spurred farmers to use pumps to irrigate their
fields long after the rains would normally have come, and kept
temperatures higher, keeping air conditioners and fans running longer.
government faced criticism for promoting Sushil Kumar Shinde from power
minister to home minister in the middle of the day Tuesday, even as the
outages continued. The promotion had been planned as part of a Cabinet
reshuffle by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Times of India
newspaper said moving Shinde "is like changing the captain of the
Titanic when it's reeling after hitting a giant iceberg."
whatever his blame for the outage might be, at least would have more
experience to deal with the fallout than a brand new minister, the paper
said in a front-page editorial.
Both Indian outages were the
world's largest by far. The next closest was a 2005 blackout that
affected 100 million people in Indonesia. - Associated Press