The great blackout that terrifies Europe: Reality or rumor?
There's been endless talk about a "great blackout" in Europe, a power grid collapse that will cause a state of emergency. The sale of survival kits, butane tanks and generators have skyrocketed across several countries. But what's the origin of this concern? And more importantly, can it really happen?
A government campaign from Austria was the origin of the fear that spread across Europe. The Austrian government set 2025 as the date for the power collapse, according to the press.
A statement by Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner fueled concerns. The Austrian newspaper Die Pressed quoted the minister saying that there was a "100% chance" of a power grid collapse. She added that "the question isn't if there's going to be a great blackout, but when".
Adding up to the concerns in Austria, the Chinese government requested the population to stockpile foodstuffs and other essentials for winter.
Several news outlets have informed that China is facing blackouts since September. This is due to the rise of coal prices and restrictions set by local authorities to reach environmental goals. Trying to lower the pollution levels has brought unwanted consequences.
The Chinese authorities quickly requested the population to remain calm. They explained that stockpiling is for precaution. Either to a failure on the power grid or a new wave of the pandemic.
Covid-19 cases are reappearing in several locations across China and a new lockdown is not out of the question within the government plans.
Anxiety has snowballed across the European continent. Though experts admit that a great blackout is not beyond the realms of possibility, chances also vary from country to country.
Some nations are fearful of Putin's Russia. The country supplies a third of the gas consumed by the European Union. This dependency is bigger in Germany and Austria. If Russia cuts the natural gas flow, Europe would tremble.
Concerns about Russia are just relics from the Cold War. There are no serious hints to believe that this country would cause issues to the European gas supply.
The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline caused initial rejection from Germany and the US. Russia is building it through the Baltic Sea to phase out the old Ukraine pipeline.
Nonetheless, there's a generalized concern of imminent disaster. The global supply chain crisis across the world has shot up the raw material prices, causing lots of economic mistrust.
There's also a psychological element: The pandemic that humanity has gone through used to be something that only existen on dystopian fiction. Anything seems possible after something unthinkable has happened. Who would have thought that the city streets and venues around the world would empty out like that?
There have been many blackouts throughout history, similar to the major power grid collapse many European news outlets predict.
Image: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash
One of the most remembered blackouts in history happened on July 13th, 1977 affecting the city of New York and its surrounding areas. Caused by a lighting hitting a substation on the Hudson River. Riots and looting took over the Big Apple in what many remember as one of the most heated nights in New York City.
A major blackout hit most of Argentina and Uruguay in 2019. The BBC informed that incident affected 50 million people. Edenor, Argentina's largest power provider, stated that a "system failure in the transmission lines from Yacyretá" caused the power grid to shut down automatically.
An unusually harsh winter left Texas without electricity and facing shortages in 2021. Scientists have pinpointed the strong snowstorms to climate change.
Many agree that if a great blackout happens, it won't be by skyrocketing prices or geopolitical clashes but a chain reaction caused by an small accident. They also say it won't last long, so don't panic.