Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 5 Most Severe Power Outages in World History

A power outage is not at all a new experience. Most of us must have already experienced being trapped in an elevator in our office buildings, groping in darkness in our homes, or reading under the light of a candle. The reasons for blackouts are diverse and could either be man-made or natural. Some examples of man-made causes of load shedding may include power plant closures, delay in the construction of power sources, facility refurbishment and operational errors, to name a few. On the other hand, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and lightning strikes may be natural causes of an energy outage.

Cases of electricity interruption last from several minutes to days, weeks or, worst, even months. Though not at all new, power outages are not supposed to be “normal”, and regular electricity disruption almost always leads to catastrophic and unsettling social and economic consequences. A power interruption affects the society in more ways than the news reports reflect. Imagine children studying in the dark, hospital patients suffering due to lack of working medical equipment, car owners honking their horns in desperation in a traffic jam that lasts for hours, passengers sleeping on the floors of airports for their flights have been cancelled, bank clients being refused service as computers and ATM machines won’t work, families stressed out as dead mobile phones and erratic coverage won’t let its members communicate with each other. Imagine business owners scratching their head at the sight of a growing deficit, employees being laid off, shops and establishments closing. People filling up the streets, crying for immediate resolution, governments destabilized, economies crumbling down….

We have trawled the Internet to find out the biggest power outages ever recorded in the recent history of the world. For this countdown, we included only those cases that were not planned by the utility provider, and those that have affected at least 1,000 people. Additionally, there must be at least 1,000,000 person-hours of disruption.

  • India, July 2012 (620 million people affected)

On July 31, 2012, India recorded what is known as the biggest power failure that ever happened in the world. This severely affected hundreds of trains, and hundreds of thousands of households and other establishments.

  • India, January 2001 (230 million people affected)

The Northern Region Grid of India witnessed a large-scale interruption on January 2, 2001. Over 1,500 MW of generation was lost and the entire region experienced a debilitating blackout. The total losses attributed to the event was a whopping INR 7 billion.

  • Bangladesh, November 2014 (150 million people affected)

On November 1, 2014. Bangladesh experienced a nationwide power interruption that made the whole country suffer for 10 hours.

  • Indonesia, August 2005 (100 million people affected)

The blackout experienced across Java and Bali on August 18, 2005 affected most areas of the region, including business centers in Jakarta and Surabaya.

  • Brazil, March 1999 (97 million people affected)

The power failure of March 11, 1999 affected São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul. The power failure was said to have been caused by a lightning strike.

Massive, widespread and disastrous occurrences of power interruption, such as the ones presented above, could have been prevented had the utility providers or the government been proactive in countering the effects of load shedding. In cases when conventional power sources are not producing enough energy, or when electricity infrastructure are overwhelmed by the demand, temporary power plants can bridge the gap in electricity supply.

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Applied in the context of power outages, one can say “preparedness is better than compensation”. With interim power stations on board, a city, a region or even a country can be assured of an uninterrupted, consistent and viable supply of electricity that guarantees economic sustainability, social solidity and political stability.


Robert Bagatsing
Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

Altaaqa Global
Marketing Department
P.O. Box 262989
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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