I’ve been in Delhi, India for the past week, shivering with the locals due to the recent historic cold spell that has overtaken northern India. While the memories of shoeless, malnourished children begging for money in the cold still haunt me, this photo is a reminder of why innovation in renewable energy, supported by great execution strategy (forgive the shameless plug) is so important.
It was taken during one of the 4-times-per-day brownouts endured here this week, as the local utility companies rationed power throughout the city and region. Brownouts were their way to compensate for their lack of supply to meet the demand from all the electric heaters being used during the cold spell – they can’t buy the electricity they’re being asked to deliver at anywhere near the low prices they’re allowed to charge; they can’t raise prices…so, they deliver brownouts that (right now) freeze people. My family here has a backup generator for the refrigerator and emergency lights – this ‘tube light’ (florescent) was one of the few on that backup generator’s circuit – and this photo is from 8:00pm, about 45 minutes into the brownout that lasted 2 hours – long enough to get really, really cold in my family’s home.
So, why is innovation in renewable energy, plus great execution strategy, so important?
- If it were easy, it would already be done: If you’re part of the 1/6 of the earth’s population who has lived or traveled in India, you know that the power grid here is fragile (some would call it a joke). The politics run deep with religious, class, and caste undertones going back 5 millennia. If a conventional energy solution was simple – some smart Indian would have figured it out already.
- Renewable energy has already seen great innovation & execution strategy: We’ve done this before – we brought the cost of solar PV down by more than half in the US in the past few years – through new products (innovation) and execution strategy (great projects like ones I was involved in with Macy’s, Kaiser, and other clients who implemented groundbreaking solutions).
- Necessity is the mother of invention: Not just to alleviate suffering, but to unleash vast amounts of potential and profit. India’s fragile power situation could have a profitable solution in a variety of renewable energy sources – everything from solar PV to thermal, wind, biofuels (wood chips, anyone?), drought-tolerant fuel plants…the next flux capacitor that really works…the list is endless.
Most importantly, it’s still very, very cold here.