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Swiss reject blackout criticism

The Italian blackout in September left some 55 million people without power Keystone

Switzerland has rejected criticism by the Italian and French authorities over the power cut that blacked out most of Italy in September.

This content was published on December 2, 2003 - 20:03

On Monday, Italian and French energy regulators issued a joint statement accusing the Swiss authorities of failing to cooperate with an inquiry into the power cut.

The Swiss Federal Energy Office said it was “astonished” by the accusations – including the claim that Switzerland was making statements it could not verify.

“There are several players who should act together and only in this case can a future blackout be avoided,” said the federal office's Martin Renggli.

Last week, Switzerland pointed to inadequate regulation of the European electricity market in a report investigating the cause of the blackout.

The federal office says its conclusions were in line with the findings of the European-wide Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE).

Switzerland says it is still very interested in producing a joint report with the other countries, although it stands by the conclusions of its own report.

“I don’t think Switzerland can be bypassed because technically we are really in the middle of the system,” Renggli said.

The federal office suggested involving an independent party in the production of a future, joint report.

Disputed claims

In its report, the federal office admitted Swiss suppliers were slow to react to the Italian breakdown but said their operators gave the Italians prompt warnings to decrease their electricity imports.

The Italian authorities have disputed the claim.

“We have to implement common rules in the near future otherwise we will have another blackout quite soon I fear,” Renggli told swissinfo.

The UCTE’s report published in October said Europe’s ageing grid was not designed to cope with today’s high level of cross-border energy sales.

At the time of the blackout, Switzerland was exporting more power to Italy than had been agreed, leaving operators unable to restore power after a breakdown on the Lukmanier line in central Switzerland.

The outage -which plunged some 55 million households into darkness for up to 18 hours - apparently began when a power line shorted out on the line during a storm.

When a second Swiss power line went down 30 minutes later, the power lines were cut between Italy and all its neighbours.

The Swiss, French and Italian electricity agencies agreed in early October to carry out a joint investigation into the causes of the blackout.

swissinfo, Scott Capper and Karin Kamp

Key facts

Italy suffered from a massive blackout on September 28, depriving most of the country of electricity.
The cut was blamed on the failure of two power lines in Switzerland, which led to the shutdown of all power imports in Italy.
A Swiss investigation found that Swiss suppliers were slow to react to the Italian breakdown.

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