Electric Blackout in Spain


A recent campaign by the Austrian Army on the possibility of an electrical blackout at the European level, reported by the Spanish media, has raised social alarm. Authorities and experts assure that the existing risk is reduced and they explain to us how the Spanish electrical system is prepared for eventualities of this type.

The debate has been sparked by the campaign of the Austrian Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces alerting the population to prepare for a generalized blackout lasting about two weeks. It includes a video, a website and two brochures (1 and 2). These materials advise having survival elements in order to "improve the general resilience of our republic in such a scenario" and "the population's ability to support itself." These are "preventive and protective measures that each individual must implement in their private sphere." The capacity of the system to withstand serious crises is not questioned, but rather the preparation of the population itself for them, even if they are extremely unlikely, as is the case of the European blackout.

The isolation of Spain

Teresa Ribera, Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, has addressed the issue in an interview in La Hora de TVE on November 2 and has ruled out that Spain could suffer such a blackout. "We are not facing any scenario that allows us to think that this could happen," he stressed

 The minister stressed that "we have reserves" and a "modern meshed electrical system that works well." He also said that Spain is "an almost energy island, with an interconnection much less than what we would like and what we must achieve with France." Ribera affirms that this situation "also represents a sanitary cordon, an important barrier" and that "it is very difficult for a major problem, in a large high-voltage line in Europe, to produce a complicated generalized effect on us here."

But the fact that Spain is an "energy island" is often seen as a weakness rather than an asset. Red Eléctrica de España (REE), the entity responsible for the activities of the sector in the country, recognizes that “if it is considered that real support to the Iberian Peninsula can only come from Central Europe through the border with France, the ratio of interconnection of the Iberian Peninsula is 2.2% "and advocates strengthening the Spanish interconnections to stop being this" electric island ". The entity also recalls that, according to the EU, we should now have five times more connections with Europe and believes that it would be necessary to reach a 15% possibility of electrical interconnection in 2030.

The EU, to coordinate all these efforts, launched in 2008 the European Network of Electricity Transmission System Operators, a body that includes 43 electricity managers from 36 countries, including REE. Every two years it publishes a “Ten Years Network Development Plan” (TYNDP), which lists the different interconnection projects under development with a medium and long-term view. It also publishes a map where you can see the current 154 streaming and 26 storage projects.

Energy in the national security strategy

The "National Security Strategy", prepared by the Ministry of Defense in 2017, dedicates a chapter to the fragility of the country in this field and says that "the low energy interconnection of gas and electricity in Spain with the rest of Europe increases vulnerability to interruptions in the supply ”. This “low interconnection” means that the country has fewer energy connections with the rest of the continent than would be necessary to avoid supply interruptions. It is something that makes Spain less vulnerable to crashes in other systems, but it would also prevent it from asking for help if necessary, making it more dependent on its internal capacity.

The 2020 Annual National Security Report, prepared by 200 experts, includes a section on energy security that also mentions this isolation situation (page 223): “If only the electrical interconnection between Spain and France is taken into account, the degree of interconnection with the rest of Europe stands at 2.8% with respect to installed power. These figures are significantly different from the interconnection targets of the European Union for 2020 (10%) and for 2030 (15%) ”. The text mentions "the importance of adequate electrical connectivity" and also includes as a challenge "security of supply in the face of geopolitical instability and market volatility." A new National Energy Security Strategy is currently being developed. It aims to guarantee Official sources: no possibility of blackout

In an interview in Onda Cero on October 29, Ribera has offered arguments against the possibility of a blackout that are based on the capacity of the Spanish system and that are shared by more experts consulted. The Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge describes that the Spanish electricity system is capable of generating "practically double the demand at peak times" and stresses that the supply of gas "is guaranteed."

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