First-ever Electricity Surplus in India

Unregulated coal mining is polluting rivers in Meghalaya, India (Flickr/ECSP via

We’ve covered a couple examples of alternative energy in India, but in general there’s a long way to go towards providing electricity to even most of the population, which generally suffers power outages. Now, the country has a surplus for the first time, but at what cost? Indian energy is still mostly in coal, and six of the country’s cities are in the top ten worst-polluted in the world. Tali Trigg writes for his blog Plugged In on Scientific American:

Like Germany, India has struggled to achieve power selling parity between its southern and northern regions, but is finally starting to see prices close-to-equal across the country. While India’s achievement is remarkable from one point-of-view, the fact remains that 300 million Indians still do not benefit as they have no access to electricity and most of the added capacity is from highly-polluting coal power causing grievous air quality.

In fact, air pollution has gotten so bad in India that it kills half a million each year in the country, and shortens life expectancy of Indians by about two years. India now has worse air pollution than China, and is doing little to reduce coal-power emissions.

The argument often goes that coal power is needed, so that it can provide electricity to millions who do not have it. But if capacity is increasing without increases in electrification along with concomitant increases in air pollution, how strong is this line of reasoning?

Fortunately, there is much promise in India. Across the country, there is vast renewable energy potential (especially if you county hydropower resources from the Himalayan mountain range). Already today, the state of Tamil Nadu is looking to sell a full 1 GW of excess wind power, which is a certainly an impressive improvement from 2013 when it experienced 16-hour power outages.

Read the rest of the article here.

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