In 2010, India was experiencing a massive boost in coal power—but not everyone was benefitting. Those in the Siddhi community, spread across the foothills of the Western Ghats, were almost entirely left in the literal dark. Francis Wilson relied entirely on kerosene lamps since the power grid didn’t cover his area. Mohan Appu had no direct connection to electricity because he had no documents to prove ownership of the house he had lived in for years. Residents of this rural community would have to travel almost 13 miles to charge a mobile phone.
This scenario, which plays out often across pockets of rural areas in the country, reflects the curious situation of India’s energy landscape. For the past two years, there’s been an overabundance of coal power, even though 240 million people in India still have little to no access to electricity. Meanwhile, over the last five months, the price of renewable energy has plummeted so low that analysts have hailed it as both “record-breaking” and “unsustainable” in the same breath. In fact, the pace of change in the country’s energy infrastructure has been so swift that even researchers are scrambling to keep a steady pulse on a constantly developing beat.