Europe suffers widespread power cuts

Sunday, November 5, 2006

A sudden cold snap across Europe caused a surge in demand for electricity. Two high voltage power lines in Germany failed. This triggered a cascade of cuts as automatic safety devices cut millions of customers in order to prevent a total blackout of the continent. Parts of Germany, Belgium, France (including parts of Paris), Spain, and Italy were affected. High speed railways were also impacted. Power was restored within two hours. Later reports said that Austria and Croatia were also affected.

An alternative cause has been suggested; that the opening of the Ems powerline crossing to let a ship pass may have triggered the blackout.

A senior director with French power company RTE is reported as saying "We weren't very far from a European blackout".

After 13 years of isolation, Southeast Europe (including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia and Romania) were reconnected to the main European transmission system in November 2004. Now, with 400 million users, the European electrical transmission system has become, in terms of consumption, the world's largest electrical energy system.

Italy's Prime minister, Romano Prodi, said there was a "contradiction" in having a unified power network but no European Union central authority.

Related news


  Learn more about List of power outages and 380kV-Ems-Overhead Powerline Crossing on Wikipedia.