A Land Of Darkness

~ A Post From Rich Aguilar (contributor)

The line was coming from a makeshift homemade telephone pole from the street. The wire itself so thin that even the slightest wind, bump or disruption would cause it to falter leaving the orphanage in darkness. At the end of the line, a transformer, that looked as if it was built in the 1930’s. 

This was my account when I visited the orphanage in West Bengal, IN. Living so primitive, not because of skill set or intelligence, but due to lack of resources. As I stared at the only source of power that the orphanage had I was amazed that this very thin wire you could buy at Home Depot here in the states hadn’t faltered already. But somehow through their ingenuity they found a way to keep the lights on.

One of the most impressive things I beheld while at the orphanage was how the people of India were able to make it work. I hadn’t seen people with so little do so much in my life until that trip back in 2015. The orphanage is a 2 story, 5000 sq. ft building that is complete with furnishings, bathrooms, a big kitchen and most importantly power. Electricity, which is such a common thing to us here in the United States, is a rare commodity for those who live in India.

300 million people out of the 1.25 billion people in India are without power. In addition, another estimated 250 million are surviving with spotty power from India’s decrepit grid, finding it available for as little as three or four hours a day. The lack of power affects rural and urban areas alike, limiting efforts to advance both living standards and the country’s manufacturing sector.

On more than a few occasions while staying at the orphanage we witnessed first hand the spotty power grid. One day in the morning the power shut off for a few hours. Another day it turned off in the middle of the night as I woke up hearing the caretaker frantically clicking switches in that transformer box from the 30’s. All told, if we connect the estimated 300 & 250 million Indians who live with spotty power or no power at all it comes to 44%. 

Take this into account, roughly 97-99% of Americans have complete access to plumbing and electricity, while a quarter of the world still lives in darkness. What compounds the problem for India is the way in which they get their power. India, one of the biggest contributors to global coal emissions, generates their power from coal burning plants. For India to facilitate the dramatic need to provide power to her people she’ll need to add 15 gigawatts of energy per year for 30 years. If they continue to produce electricity from coal burning plants emissions will also sky rocket. 

While reform is needed and has been gaining momentum there is no quick fix. India remains hopeful that plans for nuclear energy and clean burnable energy will help bring power to her people by 2024.