Light at the end of a dark tunnel
August 2, 2012

China whose long term advantage is to build India’s infrastructure, power cities and connect satellite towns was sympathetic towards the largest power outage India has seen in modern times. Affecting more than 600 million people – all of North India, China saw the failure as a tragedy it can definitely look at avoiding. Her main media read – India’s Big Power Outage Sparks a Warning: State Grid Corporation of China [The nations’ largest power company] Is Deploying Safety Checks,” read a headline from the website of Central People’s Broadcaster, a state TV station. “Roundup: Analysis of Investment Opportunities From India Power Collapse” was the headline of a story on the popular Sina web portal. The English language edition of Global Times, a nationalistic broadsheet, suggested China can “use the incident to reflect on their own problems” of development. China is currently the world’s largest consumer of energy, India’s has “one-fifth of China’s scale.

“India is stuck in a dilemma, but China is also facing a developing bottleneck,” the editorial said. “Its per capita electricity consumption is still much lower than the level of developed countries, but the public is demanding the same living standards enjoyed by rich countries.”

Advocating building larger, stronger and better supplies of power, the Chinese while realizing the dangers of a catastrophic power outage on such a huge magnitude, also made sure India learnt her lesson and decided to go with Chinese power equipment manufacturers. Chinese suppliers like Shanghai Electric, Harbin Electric and Dongfang Electric, which already have a footprint in India, are counting on the expressions of outrage in India following the grid collapse for two consecutive days to speed up investments in energy projects in the next few years. India is already the largest market for export of Chinese power equipment, and it only looks like it will get bigger.

Chinese equipment is 20-25 percent cheaper than domestically manufactured equipment. Indian power firms import about 50 percent of the total 92,717 MW power equipment orders placed in the 11th (2007-12 ) and 12th (2012-17 ) five-year Plans. Out of the total imports, the Chinese share is over 35,000 MW.

Sympathizing with Indian citizens, the Chinese also said the power cut underscored the dilemma developing countries such as India faced with growing consumption amid increasing public opposition to large-scale hydropower and nuclear projects.

Besides business, China is also using India’s example to drive its own point home. While energy companies want to build bigger dams and more nuclear facilities moving away from environmentally hazardous coal plants which currently produce over 70 percent of China’s energy requirements, eco-friendly and green advocates are increasingly winning battles. As a result, there has been strong resistance against building large power plants in the recent past, thereby also prompting many Chinese companies to look overseas – mostly South East Asia and India.

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