IPTO, union in dispute over Athens mini-blackout responsibility

A relatively brief power outage that left many parts of Athens without electricity for approximately 40 minutes yesterday has prompted a dispute between the power grid operator IPTO and work union representatives as to who, or what, was responsible for the incident.

The outage prompted IPTO to swiftly release a statement attributing the problem to human error, a conclusion that did not go by unnoticed by the operator’s workers, who believe the operator is understaffed.

It was reported that technical problems inside an IPTO control room made it impossible for a distribution center order to be executed automatically and, consequently, required a member of staff on duty at the control room to go out onto the field and execute the order manually, without safety ensured.

Union group sources who contacted energypress noted that, strictly speaking, the staff member who made the manual adjustment could be held accountable for the power outage but the actual problem should be attributed to the operating fault at the facility’s control room.

This problem, union sources implied, illustrates that IPTO’s front line, network and equipment needs have been neglected, despite the hiring of additional staff.

Personnel at sub-stations is 30 percent less than the needed level, the union sources contend.

Grid on edge, new energy ministry notes, fearing blackouts

The newly elected conservative New Democracy government’s energy ministry fears repeats of recent blackouts experienced in Athens and Crete’s Lasithi region, in the event of protracted heatwaves, contending the grid’s powers are insufficient.

The new energy minister Costis Hatzidakis is taking every opportunity to warn that the country’s grid would find itself under severe pressure should weather conditions hit extreme situations for extended periods. Blackouts are the worst nightmare for any newly appointed energy minister.

“The grid has reached its limits,” Hatzidakis told local media over the weekend.

The system has faced additional pressure over the past few days as a result of severe storms in Halkidiki, northern Greece, which killed 7 persons.

HEDNO/DEDDIE, the operator managing the mainland’s distribution network, has decreased its investments by 39 percent over the past three years.

The operator is also believed to be severely understaffed, in terms of technical personnel, and short of spare parts needed for the grid’s security. These factors have contributed to delays in repair work, new connections and required upgrades of old infrastructure.