There was a clever headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion earlier this week that wouldn’t be so humorous if it wasn’t true.
“300 Million Without Electricity In India After Restoration Of Power Grid,” the headline read.
The article was referring to the massive power outage across India Tuesday that cut electricity to 670 million citizens, the equivalent of two Americas going dark. Without question, it was the largest blackout in world history.
What was so witty about the headline was how it drew attention to another problem too often overlooked in India. Even when the existing power grid is working fine, there are still 300 million people in that country lacking access to electricity, meaning no basic necessities like refrigeration, lighting, or the appliances we westerners take for granted.
Considering India has the world’s worst air pollution, as researchers at Yale and Columbia universities concluded earlier this year, The Onion’s blackout story carries two important messages: One, the third of India without electricity could benefit tremendously from community-level investments in solar, wind and other non-polluting energy sources; second, the two-thirds who are connected to the grid will now be urging their local and national governments to modernize India’s electricity system.
That usually means cleaning it up, making it smarter and more reliable, and investing in clean technologies — from Canada, perhaps — that make it more robust and efficient.