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The fear of a major electrical blackout comes to Spain with massive purchases of camping gas: is it a real possibility?

A failure in the electricity supply that causes a prolonged lack of electricity in Europe threatens to become the next plague of humanity, after the global pandemic. But is a great blackout possible? When will it occur? Where did the warning about this new catastrophe come from?

For days, social networks and instant messaging applications have been filled with notices of what is to come, and the media, even the big ones, publish articles with recommendations to survive to the lack of electricity: we must buy camping stoves, blankets, candles and canned food.

Ministries departments in several European countries are busy editing guides and campaigns to warn their population and inform them of what they should do in this scenario, and some, like Austria, have even developed protocols for the deployment of national police to avoid possible looting that could occur during hours of total blackout.

Where does the idea that Europe is going to suffer a major blackout come from?

The alarm came from the Austrian Ministry of Defense, when it argued that at some point, without specifying the date, we could run out of electricity. “The question is not if there will be a big blackout, but when”Defense chief Klaudia Tanner said. For your department, there is a 100% chance that five years from now at some point it occurs and they want to have their citizens prepared in case that happens.

Following the annual report ‘Sicher, und morgen?’, Prepared by experts who try to anticipate possible dangers, the second most likely threat to Austria it is a blackout, which could be caused by a global epidemic, a terrorist attack, cyber attacks, a peak in demand or a system overload. According to this hypothesis, the Austrian Ministry has recommended to the population storing food, drink and medicine.

The alert soon spread to other countries. In Germany, the Department of Civil Protection and Catastrophes has launched a website offering recommendations for households to survive a major blackout. In China, the authorities have also urged the population to stockpile food.

In Spain, the video with these statements and the dire omens about the lack of electricity is circulating especially among the groups anti-vaccine and those who move disinformation about migration and various conspiracies. It began to go viral a little over three weeks ago, on October 21, and a few days later it began to have an echo in the media.

Despite the numerous denials of experts, the pattern followed by those who spread this hypothesis is the same as that of Flat Earth: everyone is wrong and they are the only ones who can show you the truth and open your eyes to reality.

However, the situation in Spain differs greatly from that of Austria and other European countries. Spain has overcapacity in all technologies of power generation and is barely interconnected with the rest of the continent. For its part, Austria depends on the gas that comes from Russia and its interconnections with Germany, while 50% of its production comes from hydro, critical in periods of drought.

In fact, the poor interconnection in Spain with France, of only 3%, which the European Union (EU) indicates should reach 10%, could be a firewall in case there were problems on the other side of the Pyrenees.

It was precisely this opinion that was expressed on October 29 by the Spanish Minister of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera. “It is true that Austria distributed information explaining how to act in the event of a major blackout, but their situation is different,” said the minister, “we are an almost energy island, so it is difficult for a domino effect to affect us. Spaniards can be calm for many reasons: we have reserves and a system that works very well, “he defended.

So is it possible in Spain?

Experts say that Spain has one of the most robust electrical systems in the world. Starting in 1983, large investments were made in the very high-voltage electrical network, which allowed the Spanish network to be increasingly increased, in such a way that more than one network connection could reach any point of consumption on the peninsula.

In addition, it has a large transport logistics and the national electricity control center has an extremely accurate estimation capacity of the hourly demand produced in Spain.

It is also a country with highly diversified sources of generation, among which wind, solar and hydraulic energy stand out, which together support around 50% of the installed power in the country, autochthonous sources that provide a certain independence from third parties.

Thus, the installed electrical power park is made up of combined cycle energy (26.2 GW), wind (27.9), hydraulic (17.1), coal (4.9), photovoltaic solar (13.7 ), nuclear (7.1), cogeneration (5.6), turbine pumping (3.3), solar thermal (2.3) and others (4.1).

Under these conditions, at some point there could be cuts due to an incident on the network, motivated for example by a meteorological phenomenon, which would lead to a blackout of one hour or a few minutes in large areas of the country. But that is not what is meant by a major blackout: the deficit in the supply of electrical energy to supply consumer demand for a long period of time.

The data

What the data says is that there are no objective indications of a fault not in the power supply either in the coming months in Spain.

In the case of gas, Spain’s infrastructure network makes it a benchmark country due to the diversification of its supply. exist six regasification plants operations that received liquefied natural gas (LNG) from 13 different origins in 2020, the year in which LNG represented 63% of all imported gas.

Likewise, the country has six international connections of gas: two with France, two with Portugal and two with Algeria. The latter are the most important since they provide 45.9% of this fossil fuel. Although Algeria has just closed one of the two tubes, the one that crosses Morocco, it has ensured that it guarantees the supply through the other gas pipeline and that it will increase shipments by ship, which take only one day to reach Spain, if necessary.

Currently, the Spanish gas system has contracted gas capacity levels higher than in recent winter seasons, with gas stored for 40 days consumption and with underground storage at 82% of its capacity.

Algeria cuts its longest gas pipeline with Spain after 25 years due to tensions with MoroccoAlgeria cuts its longest gas pipeline with Spain after 25 years due to tensions with Morocco

Regarding electricity, as of October 31, the generation capacity of the Spanish peninsular electricity system exceeded 107 gigawatts (GW) of installed power, more than double the maximum peak of registered demand (45 GW in December 2007), according to data from Red Eléctrica Española, the operator of the Spanish electricity market.

This body also reaches a clear conclusion about the alleged great blackout: “There is no objective indication that suggests an event of such characteristics in our country.”

Where do fears come from?

The fast-paced economic recovery after the halt caused by the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic has been accompanied by a very high volatility in energy markets. On the one hand, it has manifested itself in high prices, which compromise the industry and the social fabric, and on the other, in the fear that something that seemed impossible just a couple of years ago will occur: that the energy supply is not guaranteed.

However, in the Spanish case the data refutes the fears. But in a context in which record electricity prices occur in the European wholesale markets, with an evident energy crisis and raw material supplies due to the spectacular recovery, these messages penetrate a large part of the public.

This is demonstrated by the fact that in the last week the news has been published that in several European countries the stocks of camping gas stoves in many shops have run out. They are not the only products that have begun to be scarce, but also some of those included in the various lists of essentials that circulate:

External batteries and batteries Fuel Lanterns, candles, matches and lighters Electric generator Radio Medicine cabinet Drinking water and non-perishable food Blankets

In this context, some political formations are trying to profit from this situation. In Spain this is the case of the far-right force Vox, which has used the argument of the great blackout to bring back its nationalist and anti-European positions and to attack the Climate Summit that has just been held in Glasgow, Scotland .

Nuria Lopez

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Donna Miller

Donna is one of the oldest contributors of Gruntstuff and she has a unique perspective with regards to Science which makes her write news from the Science field. She aims to empower the readers with the delivery of apt factual analysis of various news pieces from Science. Donna has 3.5 years of experience in news-based content creation, and she is now an expert at it. She loves journalism, and that is the reason, she moved from a web content writer to a News writer, and she is loving it. She is a fun-loving woman who has very good connections with every team member. She makes the working environment cheerful which improves the team’s work productivity.

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