German power firm defends investment
after Europe-wide blackout
BERLIN -- A German utility confirmed
it caused a weekend outage that left millions of
people in several countries without power, but denied
Monday that the blackout revealed a lack of investment
in Europe's power grids.
E.On AG said it switched off a high-voltage transmission
line over a German river on Saturday night under
an aborted plan to allow a newly built Norwegian
cruise ship to pass safely.
That triggered a blackout that briefly
left 10 million people in countries including Germany,
France, Italy and Spain without power, stopping
trains in their tracks and trapping people in elevators.
Officials at the European Commission
in Brussels said the outage showed the vulnerability
of the 25-nation EU without proper management of
energy transmissions across national boundaries.
"Events in one part of Europe impact on other parts
and once again confirm the need for a proper European
energy policy," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs
said in a statement.
"Whilst these blackouts lasted for relatively short
periods of time, they are unacceptable."
Piebalgs said he would soon meet with national energy
regulators "to draw the lessons of this blackout,"
according to EU spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny.
The EU commission had already planned to unveil
a major energy security plan in January, and Tarradellas
Espuny said the weekend blackout added urgency to
the need for grid operators to develop binding and
uniform network security standards.
"Networks are not isolated. We have a Europe-wide
network and it has to be managed at a European level,"
European national leaders including Italian premier
Romano Prodi are also calling for better coordination
of Europe's increasingly interlinked electricity
grids as well as more investment.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said
Monday that the outage showed the need for a common
EU energy policy -- something Germany has vowed
to pursue when it holds the union's rotating presidency
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel accused
German power firms of failing to tackle known "bottlenecks"
in their networks. The companies have agreed to
build 530 miles of new transmission lines and "the
investment for that must flow now," Gabriel said
on NDR radio.
But a senior executive with E.On denied that the
blackout revealed a lack of investment.
"The networks are in good condition and are constantly
maintained. We are investing in these networks,"
Klaus-Dieter Maubach said on Germany's ZDF television.
Maubach said E.On would spend $3.6 billion in the
coming years to improve and expand its electricity