In New Delhi this summer, thousands of men, some wearing only underwear in protest, rioted over power cuts. The problem was exacerbated this year by a drought across Asia and Africa, which has caused rivers to slow to a trickle and mountain glaciers to shrink.
Just one in four Africans has access to grid electricity, according to the World Bank. More than 500 million Indians, roughly half the population, have no official access to electricity, and those who do are experiencing rolling brownouts as India's Power Ministry tries to make up for a 25 percent shortfall in electricity generation.
The developing world's dearth of power hinders prosperity and adds another layer of difficulty to daily life. In many places throughout the developing world, there are air conditioners but no air conditioning, swimming pools but no water.
"We had to move from our last apartment because there was never power," said Krity Jaiswal Sah, a former call-center employee in Noida, a dusty technology-driven boomtown on the edge of the capital. She was lured by advertisements for luxury condominium complexes with names such as Orange County and New Jersey Palms, some even offering hot tubs, though they rarely work because of daily outages. "And now, the power in our second apartment is still weak. Some of my friends sleep in their cars for the air conditioning."
Sometimes, she and her aging father-in-law walk up nine flights of stairs in the dark — no power, no elevator. Their voices are often drowned out by the hissing and whirring of generators, which form a haze of purple pollution over their complex's manicured walking paths and playgrounds.