Are We in Danger of a Blackout?

Blackout - Hectic Magazine
fot. Dennis Kummer/Unsplash

Britain and Poland are only warning for now. Kosovo has already moved from words to deeds and is the first country in Europe to cut electricity supplies. Will other countries follow suit?

Blackout is the term describing forced shutdown of power in a large area, for example an entire city. Many factors can lead to its occurrence, depending on the sources of electricity in a given place, the weather or the state of the infrastructure. Power outages can also be the result of extreme weather events, and a less obvious reason can also be cyber attack.

Blackout in times of war

In Europe, blackouts are an increasingly possible prospect as a result of, among other things, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Through the sanctions imposed on the aggressor, and the resulting reduced gas supplies across Europe, energy prices have risen dramatically. EU Energy Secretary Kadri Simson claims that: Moscow’s cuts in gas supplies to Europe were aimed at destabilizing the European energy market, raising already soaring energy prices, and preventing countries from filling up gas storage before the winter heating season.

If that is actually the case, we can say that they’ve succeed. All of Europe is currently operating in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty about what this year’s heating season will look like. Russia itself, however, denies that the cuts in gas supplies were intentional. The Kremlin says, that the drop in the flow of crude through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was due to “technical problems”.

By the end of this year, Britain’s already astronomically high energy bills could even triple. Meanwhile, European Union countries have introduced a series of measures to protect and safeguard their citizens from high energy prices. The EU has even issued a request to member states to voluntarily reduce gas consumption by 15%. Such a step would ensure adequate supplies of the resource before winter.

In Poland, the energy crisis is additionally linked to coal shortages in stockpiles. It may result in some households switching to heating, such as electric, which in turn may result in further shortages of energy.We can again blame the Russian aggression against Ukraine for this situation. The introduction of an embargo on the import of coal from Russia, which previously accounted for 70% of imported stocks, has firmly depleted Poland’s accumulated resources and power plant capabilities.

Is the blackout real?

On August 15, Kosovo announced that it was implementing blackouts. It is the first country in Europe to decide to take such steps. Earlier this month, the Republic’s government imposed a state of emergency for the entire country. It made it possible to implement changes to prevent an energy crisis. Citizens were informed that they would be able to use electricity for 6 hours, only to have the electricity disconnected for the next 2 hours.

An emergency plan, amid concerns about energy supplies during the heating season, was also announced by the UK government. In the worst-case scenario, it provides for a one-time 4-day power cut to save gas to heat households.

In Poland, the operator Polskie Sieci Elektroenergetyczne (Polish Power Grid) admits that there could be a problem with power flow in the winter. With the looming vision of a coal shortage the country’s largest power plants have already begun saving coal ahead of the heating season.

In Warsaw power supply restrictions have already been announced (as they were last year). They are mainly directed at places with the biggest energy consumption, such as shopping malls, factories and large manufacturing companies.

What can we do?

A prerequisite to prevent further blackout is the introduction of a new energy policy, based on sustainable energy sources. Most of all we need a plan to switch to renewable sources of energy. But it’s easier said than done. The first step has to include better managing of the resources, by working closely with energy producers, while taking into account rights of consumers.

At the end, the risk of blackout is not only the Russia’s fault. European governments had decades to switch to renewable energy, which could make them independent of Kremlin’s supplies. Now the consumer will pay the price of their ineptitude.

Lucyna Gunia