India suffered one of its worst blackouts in a decade this Monday morning when high demand for electricity cut off power to seven northern states and over 360 million people.  India’s electricity demand during the hot, dry summer has greatly increased this year, especially in urban areas.  Without a good monsoon and due to unusually arid weather, the nation’s electricity grid has been under a lot of strain.

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While small electrical outages each day are common in India, the scale of today’s outage was exceptional.  Said Ajai Nirula, the chief operation officer of North Delhi Power Limited, “This is a one-off situation.  Everyone was surprised.” Beginning at 2:30 am, the entire state of Rajasthan lost power, along with the states of Kashmir, Jammu, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi.  The capital’s seven water treatment plants were without electricity, and commuters along Delhi’s Metro system found themselves stranded for several hours.

By the afternoon, 75 per cent of service was restored.  The outage could have been a lot worse were it not for India’s unofficial network of backup generators.  Most are privately owned, diesel-powered generators and inverters that help deal with local, frequent blackouts.  A majority of hospitals, businesses, and government offices have these as insurance, along with a growing number of homeowners in the larger cities.  Power Ministry officials are still investigating the exact source of the failure, but suggest that it was most likely caused by individual states drawing more than their allotted share.

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