Priority to be given to vital services in event of major electricity outage

Cord plugged into an  electricity outlet.
Cord plugged into an electricity outlet. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

In the unlikely event of nationwide power outages, priority is given to vital services, which in fact must never be switched off, while domestic consumers outages would be distributed regionally, in two-hour windows and on a rotational basis, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

The outages refer to those arising from shortage of electricity supply rather than force majeure incidents such as storms, which are in any case dealt with at the time.

Priit Saar, head of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications crisis management department said: "The goal is to ensure that in the event of a power shortage, those most vital services, in which human life and well-being is at stake /.../ continue to receive electricity."

These include hospitals, communications networks, gas stations and first responders, Saar said, adding that a power interruption of even one or two hours to a hospital could lead to loss of life.

While the public, Saar added, may have gotten the impression that the state is only appealing to domestic consumers to make electricity savings and be prepared for interruptions, the ministry is in fact making this call to all category levels of electricity consumers.

Home consumers and small businesses would be the first to lose electricity, for around two hours in a day, in the unlikely event of a widespread or national power outage, AK reported.

This would be followed by public services and larger businesses, whose connections are guaranteed further, while vital services' connections must remain in place even in the worst cases of shortage of electricity supply.

Network operator Elektrilevi says a scenario where there is not enough electricity to cover all consumption in Estonia is unlikely, however.

Mihkel Härm, Elektrilevi board chair, said: "In order for this to happen, many factors would have to converge at the same time. This means: Our [undersea] cables linking to Finland must all be down, Lithuania's undersea cable to Sweden must also be down, plus there must also be a [domestic] production shortfall, for example at our Narva power plants."

For shut-down purposes, in any case, consumers are split up into five categories, starting with domestic consumers and small businesses, in category one, who would be the first to be disconnected for short periods.

The next four levels, in ascending order of importance, are large companies (with a consumption level of over 100,000 Kwh per annum), public service providers and street lighting, followed, in category four, by the Police and Border Guard Board, the Rescue Board, telecomms networks and gas stations. 

Only the aforementioned four categories may ever be cut off, in the very worst-case scenarios.

Finally the priority category as noted includes hospitals, nursing homes, and the emergency center (Häirekeskus). 

Grid distributor Elering forecasts any potential disruptions with a seven-day notice period, while deficits can occur with a 24-hour notice period.

Elering has to give the order to Elektrilevi to actually carry out shutdowns.

Härm told AK that this would also be distributed nationwide, so as to avoid one particular region of the country being without electiricyt.

This would in the first instance be rotational, among domestic consumers and over two-hour periods; in other words, two hours in one region, after which those domestic consumers would have their power switched back on, followed by a two-hour outage period in another region, and so on.

Consumers would receive an SMS notification about this two-hour outage, the day preceding the actual shut-off, AK reported.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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