Power grid expert Herbert Saurugg warns at RiskNet that European authorities continue to ignore danger signals even after another grid disruption occurred in the afternoon of July 24th and left around 2 million people in France, Spain and Portugal briefly without electricity.
It was the second major disruption in the last 7 months.
The root of the problem on July 24th appears to be a firefighting aircraft unloading its cargo directly above an extra-high voltage line, causing a short circuit, during a wildfire.
“This apparently triggered resonance effects, which one minute later led to an overload of the coupling points and to the disconnection of the grid between France and the Iberian Peninsula,” reports Saurugg here. “The Iberian Peninsula was short of energy from around three large power plants, which could not be compensated for in the short term by other power plants. As a result, automated load shedding was triggered, leaving around 2 million people in France, Spain and Portugal without power for up to an hour.”
Swift action in the nick of time kept the blackout from spreading even further. Numerous services like commerce and IT still got disrupted.
Blackouts and power disruptions can occur, but this is already the second time in less than a year an international “grid disconnection” occurred in Europe. This should be viewed as a clear wake-up call, the power grid expert warns.
Saurugg says “signs and warnings have been ignored for years” by Europe and that weather disasters and catastrophes would makes these disasters completely unmanageable in the event of a power grid failure. Entire logistics and supply chains could “fail chaotically across Europe” and even take weeks to restore.
“It is precisely these effects that are massively underestimated,” says Saurugg. “At the same time, we know that around two thirds of the population will be unable to supply themselves adequately after one week at the latest. But the broad-based restart of the supply of vital goods and services (food, medicines, health, etc.) will take much longer.”
Saurugg adds another warning: “A discussion, as is currently the case after the recent severe storms, about who is to blame or who did not warn sufficiently, will then be irrelevant. Therefore, we should not wait any longer, but finally deal seriously with the topic of blackout prevention.”
Herbert Saurugg is an international blackout and crisis preparedness expert and president of the Austrian Society for Crisis Preparedness (GfKV). As a former professional officer, he has been dealing with the increasing complexity and fragility of vital infrastructures for 10 years and runs an extensive expert blog on the subject.