European countries hunt cause of power outage

6th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

6 November 2006, Berlin (dpa) - European nations are jointly studying how the electricity supply grid over-loaded itself in part of western Europe, causing blackouts of up to an hour on Saturday night, the German government said in Berlin Monday. A German utility, E.ON, said the crisis took hold half an hour after it had switched off a 380,000-volt main line so that a ship could pass underneath. An expert, Christoph Maurer, said part of Europe's grid then became isolated from the rest of the continent. The

6 November 2006

Berlin (dpa) - European nations are jointly studying how the electricity supply grid over-loaded itself in part of western Europe, causing blackouts of up to an hour on Saturday night, the German government said in Berlin Monday.

A German utility, E.ON, said the crisis took hold half an hour after it had switched off a 380,000-volt main line so that a ship could pass underneath. An expert, Christoph Maurer, said part of Europe's grid then became isolated from the rest of the continent.

The crisis has embarrassed high-tech Germany, where Aribert Peters, heading an energy consumers' group, said, "We'll fall back to the level of a developing country if this keeps going on."

He told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview Monday, "The network is falling apart because too little is being invested in it."

Power failed for up to an hour in heavily populated areas of Germany, France and Italy, as well as in parts of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. An estimated 10 million people were hit, while millions more noticed power fluctuations.

A spokeswoman for the German Economics Ministry said in Berlin that Germany's regulator of networks was conducting a joint inquiry with other nations to establish if power companies had breached any laws.

She said a European-level group representing the power networks, UCTE, had said it would report on the cause of the blackouts.

Earlier, the European Commission had written to industry groups demanding a report on the reasons.

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs urged European Union member states to harmonize their national energy policies.

"Energy security is better delivered through a common European approach rather than 27 different approaches," he said. The 25-member EU, which is soon to absorb Bulgaria and Romania, needed an internal market based on the very highest levels of system security.

Klaus-Dieter Maubach, a senior executive at E.ON, said the crisis started when the main line in Germany near the Dutch border was taken out, but denied that the German power network was faulty.

"The networks are in a very good condition and we're investing in them all the time," he said.

But Peters, chairman of the German Federation of Energy Consumers, disagreed, saying, "The network is falling apart because too little is being invested in it." He accused power companies of taking line charges as profit instead of reinvesting in a better network.

"The fact is that the pan-European power grid separated into three separate zones on Saturday," explained Christoph Maurer, an academic engineer at Aachen University's power equipment institute.

"Normally the load and generating capacity is shared around the European grid.

"Once it fragmented into three 'islands', there was a shortage of generating capacity in the west. Under the rules, an automatic purge of the loads began. The customer experiences that as the power failing."

He said the wind generation of power made it harder nowadays to predict where electricity would enter the grid.

Germany's BWE association of wind-power generators rejected blame for the crisis, saying winds had been moderate Saturday night and windmills had only been operating at 30 per cent of their total capacity at the time.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article