Time for India to face facts
To paraphrase wit and playwright Oscar Wilde: “To lose one grid, Mr Singh, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”.
For India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the power collapse of, eventually, three power grids over two days leaving more than 600 million people without electricity, should be the starkest message yet that India and its politicians need to stop pandering to populism, bite-the-bullet on economic reforms and clean up its legal and regulatory act.
And, should there be action, the cleantech sector should see the greatest business benefit.
India's power network is a fair reflection of the problems facing the country: state-owned companies with a stranglehold over smaller-scale, more agile competitors; an unattractive value proposition to investors on critical infrastructure projects; a political and legal knot of red tape and the haunting but prevalent hand of corruption.
60 years of failure
Under Prime Minister Singh's own plan he is seeking USD400 billion of investment in the power industry in the next five years, trying to overcome India's average 9 percent shortfall in meeting peak power demand, according to the Central Electricity Authority's (CET) own figures. Yet the country has failed to meet planned targets every year since 1951, again CET figures.
According to a report from the International Energy Agency last year, 288 million people in India were living without electricity access, in spite of the national policy ‘Power for All by 2012’ being only seven years old.
For the year 2010-2011, India's Planning Commission reported that power projects run by state government-funded projects met only 42 percent of central government's targets, while central government's own projects only reached 50 percent of their generation capacity goals.
The private sector, however, added 5,122 MW of capacity, about 84 per cent of the target set by the commission, much of it renewable energy.
In the days preceding this mass blackout India's naysayers to investment obstacles were busy. Singh was forced to re-assure visiting Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of India’s commitment as an “investment-friendly” country