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Millions of Europeans in Power Cut 2006-11-06

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe.
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A massive power cut plunged millions of homes across western Europe into darkness as problems in Germany triggered a cross-border collapse.

The impact of the power cuts, which first hit at about 21:30 on Saturday night 2006-11-04 in north-western Germany, was felt across the border in France and Italy, as well as parts of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria, and as far away as Morocco.

A surge in demand during a ‘cold snap’ is thought to have contributed to the difficulties, which prompted calls from the German government for an immediate explanation, and renewed demands for a shake-up of Europe’s troubled energy policy. Almost half of Germany’s 82 million inhabitants were without power at some time during the evening.

The cuts, which lasted about an hour, hit much of northern Italy, and were estimated to have affected about five million people in France, where it was thought to be the worst power cut in 30 years.

The German national rail operator, ‘Deutsche Bahn‘, said more than 100 mostly regional train services were disrupted.

‘We weren’t very far from a European blackout,’ a senior director with French power company ‘RTE‘ said, blaming the failure on two German high-voltage transmission lines.

This triggered a ‘house of cards’ style system breakdown, he said.

The Italian Prime Minister Mr.Romano Prodi, said the ‘blackout’ showed the need for a common European energy authority and policy. He said:

[Picture of Romano Prodi]
‘It’s a rich contradiction that we depend on each other, but we can’t help each other without a common authority.’

German utility ‘E.ON‘ said reports of the cuts began to emerge shortly after it shut down a high-voltage line over a river in north-western Germany to let a ship pass through and that this closure may have been linked to the power loss.

‘In the past, these operations were often performed with no problems,’ the firm said, adding that the precise cause of the cut was still being investigated.

The German economy minister, Mr.Michael Glos, said he was expecting a prompt report from ‘E.ON’.

[Picture of Michael Glos]
‘We will examine this report quickly so that together with the companies we can ensure that, if at all possible, such events are not repeated,’ he said.

A spokesman for German utility ‘RWE Rhein Ruhr‘ said that because electricity was supplied on a shared network, the loss in power had spilled over into other areas, adding that the cuts were caused by a failure outside his firm’s network.

Spanish electricity grid operator ‘Red Electrica de Espana‘ said parts of Spain and Portugal suffered power cuts caused by the problem in Germany, and that the flow of power to Morocco was interrupted after a power station was cut off.

Power cuts that struck mainline Europe are unlikely to affect Britain, said a National Grid spokesman.

‘There’s no reason to believe a sudden increase in demand for power in the UK would cause a shortage or failure to the UK power grid,’ he said.

‘From our understanding the European shortages occured due to a technical fault on the transmission circuit carried out by German utility network, “E.ON”.’ He added:

‘The European blackouts didn’t affect the UK because the cables that connect us to mainland Europe are of a technically different nature.’

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