Power outage

Power outage in Switzerland – big emergency exercise in Austria

rt. On 25 May, a total power outage could be narrowly avoided with the help of the European energy agencies. According to information from the “Tages-Anzeiger”, an enormous surge of electricity suddenly flowed to Switzerland’s northern border. As a result the systems were under extreme pressure and the grid company Swissgrid declared the critical alert level. If the situation had not been brought under control, some regions would have had to be taken off the grid. It becomes apparent just how closely Switzerland is interwoven with the European electricity grid and how important effective cooperation across European borders is.
In Austria, from 13 to 15 May, around 100 representatives from the federal ministries, the federal states as well as various emergency organisations and infrastructure facilities exercised a blackout – a total power cut. On the third day, the Austrian Federal Government was also involved in the “Helios crisis exercise”. Robert Stocker, head of the State Crisis and Emergency Management Authority SKKM, outlined the aim of the emergency exercise: “There is hardly any area of life that does not depend on electricity, and in this exercise we want to anticipate how we can deal best with an electricity shortage, especially at the federal level” (“Der Standard” from 12 May). For some time, Austria’s authorities have been working hard on precautionary measures for an emergency.
Only in Januar, a dangerous situation had emerged which almost led to a blackout all over Europe. In this context, in the “Standard” from 15 January, Herbert Saurugg, major in the Austrian Armed Forces and proven blackout specialist, pointed out how important it is to make appropriate provisions and to take precautions. Especially in weather conditions like in January, it does take some time before everything functions again. Therefore citizens should store up sufficient water and food supplies. We recommend long-life milk, sugar, tin vegetables or legumes as well as food that can be prepared by cooking in water – ideally you also have a gas cooker available. Because a blackout does not only have an immediate effect on the power supply, but also leads to longer lasting consequences. For example, frozen food can spoil if the cold chain is interrupted. (For Switzerland, refer to the excellent website www.alert.swiss.ch).
* * *
In this context, it was objectionable for the grid agency Swissgrid to claim that such incidents could only be effectively prevented by an electricity agreement with the EU – which allegedly is a precondition of the Framework Agreement with the EU.    •