The energy crisis in China and India has been dominating news for the past couple of months. Both the countries experienced an unprecedented fall in power generation even as their economies bounced back to the pre-pandemic phase.
The crisis was the result of falling coal production and supply issues causing ripple effects throughout the world. Factories in China had to close temporarily causing prices of various commodities to spike as supplies stuttered, threatening global economic recovery.
More importantly though, we are left with many important questions on the nature of power generation, renewable energy and how such issues can be prevented in the future.
What Caused the Energy Crisis?
Many variables coincided to create a perfect storm of situations that lead to the unfolding disaster in both the countries. And, even though the crisis itself was primarily caused by low coal reserves, different reasons led to it in each case.
First, let’s consider China. Coal accounts for 70% of the country’s energy production. China itself is the largest coal producer in the world, accounting for 50% of all global output. But the country also has to import coal to meet its ambitious industrialization goals, most of which comes from Australia.
Last year, coal mines in Mongolia were closed to clear the skies for the CCP’s 100 year anniversary and national games. The CCP had also been cracking down on safety norms being flouted at coal mines which disrupted supplies.
Internationally, China had also levied sanctions against Australia as it joined the global demand to identify the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, a measure that ended up hurting China given its already low domestic coal supply.
In the case of India, the shortage wasn’t as severe, but significant nevertheless. Economic recovery following the second wave lockdowns was sharp, resulting in a spike in energy demand. However, the problem lied squarely on the supply side of things.
Even though coal producers had enough stock on hand, they were having issues getting them to the plants which owed huge amounts to power distributors. The power producers were also playing it safe and were not stockpiling enough coal in anticipation of another lockdown with low energy demand, a move which backfired on them. A longer than usual monsoon season exacerbated the problem by slowing down supply lines.
What All This Means for Energy Consumers
If we take a closer look at the crisis, a few things become clear. Firstly, coal fired plants are heavily dependent on a predictable and robust transportation system. Given the limited stocks thermal power plants carry, any disruption in supply lines can easily lead to outages. In both the cases, transportation problems played a key role in triggering the problem.
Next, having all the eggs in one basket is just a recipe for disaster. Both the Indian and Chinese economies are primarily driven by coal-fired plants. A more egalitarian grid that uses multiple generation technologies can greatly offset this disbalance.
Finally, while the energy crisis mostly affected large-scale industries and commercial activities, regular people saw disruptions in their daily lives, too. Over half of China’s provinces had to ration power supplies, leaving residents in the dark for days. Workers were asked to take the stairs and make do with less power supply both at home and the workplace.
Indian states that were hit by the outage had to take similar measures with people witnessing prolonged blackouts. Businesses had to shutter early for several weeks, slowing economic recovery.
Even though an energy crisis of such magnitude is highly unlikely in Australia, there are several key takeaways we can get here. Relying on large generation plants that need an intricate supply chain is less than ideal as they are also single points of failure.
Residents can also future proof their homes and businesses by adopting modern solar power solutions and being less reliant on the grid. Not only will doing so increase grid resilience, but also leave heavy-duty power generation for industrial applications, something which only coal and gas can handle for now.
Go Solar Now and Become Energy Independent
Much like India and China, Australia’s power mix is dominated by coal, which makes up for 40% of our energy output. No one can deny that non-renewable energy has helped us get to where we are and will continue to play a dominant role in energy production for the foreseeable future.
However, non-renewable energy sources also carry several risks that are too great to ignore. The ones we discussed above are just one such example. The biggest argument against coal et al of course remains the fact they are incredibly polluting.
As pv panel and battery prices continue to drop, solar is becoming an increasingly viable option for most homeowners. Not only will it help you take charge of your power requirements, but it can also strengthen our national grid by adding one more energy generator to it.
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