Italy, 28 September, 2003
Italy was hit by a nationwide power blackout at 3.20am on Sunday 28 September 2003. The blackout impacted almost the whole Italian population of 57 million people, putting it on a similar scale to the United States and Canada blackout of August 2003. Enquiries into exactly what happened are ongoing (see below) but it is known that power transmission lines from Switzerland through the Alps were knocked out and the effect of this power loss then cascaded through the whole of Italy.
Gestore Rete Transmissione Nazionale The Italian grid operator has now placed a report online on the events which led to the national blackout. A report from the Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE) was published on 27 October while UCTE's September 29 press release is available here. Two brief press releases on the blackout from ETRANS, the independent coordination company for the Swiss extra high voltage grid, provide a further view of events. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy has carried out a an inquiry into behaviour of the interconnected power system in order to reach a comprehensive understanding of the events which led to the blackout. The report summaries the immediate causes of the blackout as:
It would appear that the main causes of the blackout in Italy were a line to ground fault on the Lukmanier line, the inability to restore this line, a phone call between ETRANS and GRTN that did not take adequate account of the severity of the situation, possible instabilities in the GRTN network, and perhaps insufficient distances between conductor cables and trees. But these are merely factors that triggered the blackout. The underlying causes of the incident that occurred on 28 September 2003 are the unresolved conflicts between the trading interests of the involved countries and operators and the technical requirements of the existing transnational electricity system. Present-day standards and legal instruments are lagging well behind economic realities and gives a list of twelve recommendations focusing on regulation, cross border trading and the institutional framework.