Italy faces possibility of more power cuts

23 July 2003 – The long spell of dry weather and high temperatures is putting a strain on Italy’s national power grid which is now stretched to its limits and conditions may require more planned blackouts said a government official Tuesday.

Electricity demand in Italy has risen to about 56 000 MW per day compared with an average of 40 000 MW as s result of increased use of air conditioning and refrigeration. The drought has also depleted Italy’s hydropower capabilities and left the country relying on electricity imports to meet demand.

“The grid operator is expecting a worsening of the situation of the electricity system this week and there is a risk of having to resort to planned switching off retail clients,” said Industry Minister Antonio Marzano.

Italy’s dominant electricity generator Enel has warned that the national power grid GRTN saw risks of power blackouts between 0700 GMT and 1600 GMT on Wednesday.

Six million people were affected by power outages last month as GRTN’s grid almost collapsed and generators were forced to cut power supplies.

Production from thermal power plants is capped for environmental reasons however Marzano told parliament that if the heat and drought did not let up the government could allow electricity companies to turn up power plants. A cabinet decision earlier this month permitted an increase in waste water temperatures from power stations to 37 degrees from 35 previously, enabling plants to add a total 2000 MW of capacity over a period of 75 days.