A massive power failure that left 620 million people in the dark brought India’s energy crisis to a head, as the collapse of three regional grids brought about the world’s biggest blackout—affecting more than half of this highly populous nation. Trains stalled out, miners were trapped underground and traffic lights shut down, creating waves of relative chaos that lasted several hours on Tuesday, just a day after a similar outage hit. India’s infrastructure is showing its age, and the population of 1 billion plus demands much more than it can currently handle.
Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde placed the blame on individual states, claiming that they were each drawing more than their scheduled share of electricity.
“Everyone overdraws from the grid,” he told reporters “Just this morning I held a meeting with power officials from the states and I gave directions that states that overdraw should be punished. We have given instructions that their power supply could be cut.”
Tuesday’s blackout affected 20 of India’s 28 states, which house close to two times the population of the United States. Major businesses and facilities such as airports and hospitals have already adopted the use of backup generators due to frequent blackouts, though none have been on this large of a scale. Shinde reported that the northeast grid was working at full power four hours after failing, while the north and east grids were both running below 50 percent capacity. Power Grid Corp., the company responsible for India’s power network, said that those two grids were expected to be fully restored later Tuesday evening.
The northern grid was responsible for Monday’s power outage, and was up and running for just a handful of hours before crashing once again. Prior to Tuesday’s blackout, Monday’s incident had been listed as the world’s largest outage. As it stands, approximately one in three households in India are not connected to the power grid at all, lacking enough energy to power a light bulb, as recorded in last year’s census.