- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

GHAZIABAD, India — Work making potato chip display racks at Jayraj Kumar’s factory barely paused when much of India’s power grid collapsed.

The backup generators kicked in automatically and the electric saws, presses and welding machines kept running, just like they do during the five-hour power cuts the factory in suburban Delhi suffers nearly every day.

India’s unreliable power system has forced businesses to create a workaround electricity system of noisy, dirty diesel generators that prepared them well when the world’s worst blackout hit the country Tuesday.

But the trouble has also vastly increased businesses’s expenses, dragged down their productivity and hampered economic growth in the country.

“Running a factory is very tough here,” Kumar said.

Power Minister Veerappa Moily said Wednesday the government would not allow a recurrence of the massive power outages. On Monday, 370 million people lost power for hours when the northern grid collapsed. On Tuesday, 620 million had no electricity after the grid collapsed again, dragging down two neighboring grids.

Moily said an investigation had begun and while he said he didn’t want to cast blame yet, he cautioned states not to take more than their allotted power.

“If they overdraw, this is the result. They can see for themselves. The entire grid will go black,” he said.

The government needed to investigate ways to resolve the disparity between supply and demand, perhaps with congestion pricing, plugging leaks in the distribution system and bringing more power plants on line, he said.

Hundreds of millions of Indians have no access to electricity anyway. Many who do were insulated from the blackouts’ effect by the coping systems they use to handle the smaller power cuts that are routine across the country.

The private Max Hospital in New Delhi said its generators were set up to fully power the facility. “The electrical system is so designed that patients do not feel even a flicker of power disruption at any point of time,” the hospital said in a statement.

Microtek, an Indian company that specializes in selling power backup inverters, claims to have 100 million “satisfied customers.”

“Every year in the summer months demand peaks and there are power failures, so most middle-class families purchase an inverter. That’s why we’re in business,” said Manoj Jain, vice president at Microtek.

According to World Bank statistics, India lost 6.6 percent of sales due to power outages in 2006, the last year statistics were available. By contrast China’s losses were 1.3 in 2003, the latest data available.

Kumar, 56, started his business turning metal wire into display racks 23 years ago with just three employees.

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