An estimated 670 million Indians were affected by this week’s grid outage (see “How Power Outages in India May One Day Be Avoided”). But it would be a mistake to think that India is uniquely vulnerable to large-scale grid failures. The growing complexity and reliance on the electric grid in both developed and fast-growing countries is making stability tougher to achieve.
India, in particular, operates its grid with one very large handicap: insufficient power. With demand for electricity regularly outstripping supply, grid operators ration out power by periodically cutting service in some areas. The situation has been made worse this year by a drier monsoon season, which has prompted northern farmers to run pumps and draw more power than usual.