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India's Green-Energy Providers May Struggle After Power Blackout

By Bruce Einhorn

If there’s any country where solar power should be an easy sell, it’s India.

Two-thirds of the country’s power supply comes from fossil fuels, and power producers can’t get enough coal to fire their plants or enough pipeline space to distribute natural gas, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Aug. 13 edition.

In late July, blackouts over two days left much of northern India in the dark, at one point cutting power to more than 640 million people. Even at the best of times the network fails to serve much of India.

The July blackouts lasted “only for a couple of days, but 400 million Indians have never had electricity,” says H. Harish Hande, managing director of Selco Solar, a Bangalore-based company that focuses on expanding solar power use among the rural poor.

India gets only about 1 gigawatt of power from solar, 0.5 percent of its power consumption. Hande says solar may end up taking a back seat as the government tries to reassure business leaders and investors that it quickly will solve the country’s chronic power woes.

“I am a little scared this is not going to be looked at as an opportunity,” he says. The crisis “is going to be used as a pretext to push for coal and nuclear.” 

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