Emergency state called off after Tuesday's power grid failure

The Czech Republic experienced its biggest blackout for three decades on Tuesday, when the country's energy grid collapsed. The reason seems to be the ongoing heat wave which has hit many parts of Europe. A number of large factories had to reduce production and even turn off their air conditioning and lighting.

Miroslav Vrba,  photo: CTK
Industry Minister Milan Urban explained at a news conference on Tuesday that supplies of energy for Southern Europe with its increased use of air-conditioning contributed to the overloading of the Czech power grid, causing the biggest blackout since the 1970s.

The executive director for strategy and finance of the grid operator CEPS Miroslav Vrba told Radio Prague what actually happened.

"Yesterday before noon, due to many reasons, such as high temperature, high loading of lines, etc., some very high-voltage lines inside of the Czech Transmission System were automatically switched off and consequently many generation units had to decrease their output.

From 2 p.m., CEPS, in line with the energy law, declared an emergency state and demand regulation."

As emergency assistance, power was imported from operators in neighbouring Germany and Slovakia and the Czech grid operator CEPS declared a strict limit on energy consumption. The blackouts forced some Czech firms to trim operations and conserve power on Tuesday, such as Skoda Auto and the Toyota-Peugeot-Citroen plant. But the emergency situation did not affect households, hospitals or public transport.

The state of emergency was called off at 11 pm on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday morning, there are no limits on energy consumption. Nevertheless, the Czech power utility CEZ, Europe's second largest power exporter, decided to halt exports on Wednesday to boost local supplies.

Experts say similar situations cannot be ruled out in the future as demand for power is on the rise. The past winter saw a record high energy consumption in the Czech Republic and because of the current heat wave, record figures are expected for July, too.