North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India's growing pains - electricity lost for 640 million

India continues to be one of the more fascinating countries of the world. The largest democracy - a true democracy with dozens of parties, representing hundreds of distinct ethnic groups, and a range of 18th to 21st century thinking - and a rising economic power, the country regularly churns out newsworthy achievements and perplexing challenges.

Northern India was hit hardest by the electrical grid collapse - caused by high demand, and low hydroelectric power behind dams in the north, which catch water off the Himalaya mountains.

This week, two electric grids apparently were unable to provide sufficient power to meet demand, and therefore collapsed (or shut down), breaking off power altogether to some 620-650 million people. Just think, that's as if every single American, Canadian, and Mexican combined lost power on the North American continent, or every single individual on the whole African continent lost power.

The real impact, of course, is nowhere as severe as we Americans would consider, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of consumption of power in the world. However, even so, the effects are a reminder of just how deeply most of the world depends on reliable power.

Grids are shut down to prevent damage to their resistors, insulators, and generators, if there is not enough power to meet demands.

From the BBC ... "Hundreds of trains have come to a standstill and hospitals are running on backup generators. Many traffic lights are also not operating in Delhi, leading to massive traffic jams. Smriti Mehra, who works at the Bank Of India in Delhi, said it had to turn customers away. "There is no internet, nothing is working. It is a total breakdown of everything in our office." In eastern India, around 200 miners were trapped underground as lifts failed, but officials later said an operation had begun to get them out."

Hundreds of thousands waited for electric trains that never arrived ...

From a Bloomberg business/investment article, "Electric crematoriums in Delhi switched back to wood, tax authorities extended by a month the deadline for filing returns, and stock analysts recommended investors buy power equipment-makers including Sterlite Technologies Ltd in anticipation of increased investment in the grid."

Massive traffic jams developed as traffic lights went out, and private vehicles became the second choice for those who normally used public transportation.

Power was lost twice. Again from Bloomberg, "On Day One, nearly 360 million people lost power across seven states in northern India when excessive demand and a shortfall in hydro power overwhelmed the electricity grid. Slightly more than 12 hours later, power resumed in the capital – only to fail again the next day. The second blackout was even worse, with the chaos spreading to Calcutta and other parts of eastern India."

The restoration of power had its own results. Light bulbs in south Delhi exploded, refrigerators groaned from the surge in power, electricity sockets spat out smoke, and assorted appliances were fried. Surge protector sales jumped at New Delhi’s Pankaj Electronics, as did lightbulbs, fuseboxes and black electrical tape at various markets.

One Indian observed, "It just shows our infrastructure is in a complete mess. There is no transparency and no accountability whatsoever." The comment highlights the challenges of the country to bring further regulations into play, along with strong enforcement and accountability. These are the true measures of quality governance.

Numerous examples of illegal bootlegging of electricity can be found. These lines represent corruption from local electricians and politicians, resulting in excessive drain from the lines designed capacity, as well as lack of safeguards to wherever the electicity eventually ends up.

Over the next months, it will be interesting to watch the aftermath, politically as well as physically, of this two day "wake up" event.

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