Making a case for microgrids

On 30 July 2012, one-fourth of Bharat was plunged into darkness. A blackout that lasted for two days affected all of North and East India and exposed a severe deficiency in the distribution infrastructure and demand management system in the Indian power sector.

While we as a nation mercifully don’t face such major blackouts on a daily basis, the truth is electricity access in India is a case of death by a thousand cuts. Our towns and villages bear the brunt of this poor distribution infrastructure, which is characterized by low voltages, and frequent power cuts, often lasting more than four hours a day.

Employing localized microgrids and reducing dependence on central infrastructure might be the solution to poor distribution infrastructure. And if you asked the folks in Meerwada, Madhya Pradesh, one of the few bright spots North of the Vindhyas on those dark days, they’d agree and point to the small solar microgrid that kept their homes lit and fields humming.

Most of Bharat that lives outside cities suffers from power outages for two big reasons—underestimating demand, and poor balancing of demand and supply. The power infrastructure outside urban centres has been built under the simplistic assumption that a rural household consumes one unit of electricity per day, which, compared to the national average of 12-15 units, is a gross underestimation.

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