India is home to the largest population on earth with 1.2 billion citizens. This week around 600 million people experienced wide power outages throughout the country. This comes during the summer monsoon season that has temperatures over 80 degrees and 89 percent humidity. These cuts are some of the biggest in the worlds history and have left millions of people stranded and unable to get home as the power outages impacted trains throughout the country. To highlight the impact of the outages 200 million workers were stranded in coal mine shafts when the elevators stopped working. Fortunately they were able to get them out but to those stuck in the mines it must have been a frightening state of affairs.
Narendra Modi, a chief minister in Gujarat, was quoted saying. ”With poor economic management UPA has emptied the pockets of common man; kept stomachs hungry with inflation & today pushed them into darkness,” he said on his Twitter account. The Prime Minister blamed several states for using more than their fare share of power for causing the massive outages. It must be pointed out, however, that for India to really play on the global stage they must have the ability to supply for a growing need and asking states to reduce the amount of energy used is not a solution for growth.
While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised to advance energy projects throughout the country these recent outages have proven the immense need and inability to delay. Reforms are discussed and promoted but real action needs to occur and swiftly to address India’s energy issues. While India continues to gain strength as a global powerhouse infrastructure is key to continued growth and maintaining this trend. Without their ability to maintain a steady power supply businesses will be hesitant to locate in India due to unreliability and the possibility of major financial loss.
What is the solution for India and for a world population that continues to grow and consume our natural resources? We must look for alternative means to power our businesses, our homes and our transportation systems. Continuing to rely on the standard systems is no longer working and outages like this only serve to highlight the problem. There are many inventors and scientist that have been actively working on new green technology to meet these needs. In order to turn these technologies into something viable the government must get involved. It is up to the government of various countries to invest in green technology not in words but in deeds. Speaking as a business owner solutions like “tax incentives” are nothing but smoke in mirrors aimed to help large corporations while doing nothing for a small business or inventor. If an inventor needs funds to take a green energy project from the lab to the production line he does not need tax incentives to do it. He needs hard cold cash. Yes, these funds can come from private investors and usually do but the energy issue is not simply one for the average consumer to address. It is up to national governments to find, fund and implement these solutions and us as business leaders and citizens need to demand them.
While this issue is impacting India today we would be foolish to assume as Americans that energy issues do not impact us as well. Our population is expected to grow by 46% by 2050 according to the US Census Bureau. That means more cars on the road, more homes to heat and cool, more offices to run and more manufacturing plants to activate. With cell phones, IPads, Television, and our every day appliances we are consumers. Imagine for a moment that you lived in India this summer. Imagine being stuck unable to get home or the inconvenience those in the East Coast experienced in July from not being able to operate their homes and electronic devises during the heat wave. Even “green” electric cars require this energy source. Yes, in the past decade we have made movement toward green technology and embracing it as part of our every day lives in conversation. My question, however, is simple: how has this impacted your life? What conversations have made it from a political dialogue to actual change? I see more windmills in the hills of Eastern Washington and more homes with energy efficient appliances but at the end of the day this is only scratching the surface of where we need to go. I urge all of us to start looking for and demanding alternative solutions. As US citizens our government is supposed to act on the will of the people, not the other way around. If our desire is to find new solutions to support our changing and growing world then we need to demand it. Personally my company is investing in science and companies that are creating and looking for real solutions. It is time to act before we end up like the 600 million Indian citizens, sitting in the dark, trying to get home.