Blackout jolt

According to all available information, as well as an admission by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, yesterday’s general blackout was not due to a lack of power but to mistaken calculations in the management of the system of high tension wires. As a result, although there was a power reserve of 800 MW, four Public Power Corporation (PPC) installations went out of action. According to unofficial sources, when «mistaken calculations» are cited, this does not mean a major, individual mistake but a series of erroneous assessments in the management of electric power. In that case, blame lies with the administrator of the Greek Electrical Energy Distribution System (DESMHE), which was made independent of PPC in view of the decision to allow the private sector to produce energy. So we are talking about a chain of errors that meant available power did not reach the consumer on a day when demand was expected to be at its height, that is the first working day during a heat wave. The incident shows that in Greece we are capable of the best and the worst, even when we are not dealing with an unexpected crisis, even in situations where we are well aware how bad an impression we will make, as in yesterday’s blackout, since all eyes are on «pre-Olympic Athens.» In that same city, tests are constantly being carried out, such as yesterday’s triumphant trial run of the metro to the airport, which ground to a halt during the power cut after being affected by another blackout earlier on. One does not need much imagination to predict the negative repercussions of a blackout such as yesterday’s occurring during the Olympic Games, even if the Olympic venues do have backup systems. Sensitive and complex areas such as the country’s power system need constant supervision and efficient administration, the exploitation of experience and a balance between renewal and continuity. They need systematic, collective effort, effort and intense concentration right up until the last minute – those very virtues which Otto Rehhagel inspired in our national soccer team, virtues which the team members accepted and practiced to the full and with an admirable team spirit. On the one hand, it is perhaps positive that the blackout happened in the runup to the Games, as long as it is a lesson in how things should be done, in how serious the challenges are and the gravity of the repercussions which a slapdash, superficial approach can have.