Europe warned of the risks from power cuts

Stark warnings of the possible fall-out from potential power cuts in Europe this winter have been made by high level figures.

Emergency phone calls may not be possible in parts of France if there are prolonged power cuts this winter, according to the CEO of telecoms operator Orange.

The prospect of energy rationing looms amid the war in Ukraine.

“If, in a geographical area, (mobile network services) are turned off for two hours, there will be no access to the emergency number services for a while,” Heydemann told French lawmakers at a hearing in the Senate.

“It is illusory to imagine that we’ll be able to maintain service to all French people in the event of power cuts,” she said.

Heydemann said there wasn’t enough time to install back-up batteries on the thousands of mobile sites for this winter. It would take five years, she said.

Heydemann, who took over the reins at Orange in April, said the company had been running tests on its mobile network in France to evaluate and anticipate the risks of power outages.

Under current scenarios being discussed with the government, Orange would be alerted at 5pm (1600 GMT) the day before a power cut and would be given the exact location.

She said Orange was trying to obtain that information 24 hours ahead of outages to get technicians on the ground to work as soon as possible.

“I fear that our fellow citizens and the French will discover that telecom networks depend on electricity,” she said.

Orange’s Heydemann also said the company and the industry were in close contact with the country’s electricity distributor Enedis, a subsidiary of utility EDF.

“The priority for Enedis and public authorities is to help telecom operators preserve access to emergency numbers… in the event of exceptional power shedding,” Enedis said.

“Talks are ongoing… to find the best possible solutions to limit the impact of potential temporary power cuts,” it added.

Heydemann’s warnings contradict the more upbeat tone held so far by the French government.

“If there were power supply issues at a given time, there are what we call ‘resource antennas’ (that would allow) for all emergency numbers to operate,” government spokesperson Olivier Veran said earlier in the week. 

Also this week, the risk of short power outages has increased in Finland due to uncertainty in domestic production and foreign imports, the Finnish energy authority said.

“Sufficient electricity in Finland is more uncertain than before in the coming winter,” the Energy Authority said in a statement.

“Several simultaneous failures in domestic production or transmission connections can lead to electricity shortages even with short notice,” it said.

Finland’s national grid operator Fingrid has also warned of potential power blackouts this winter, due in part to the uncertainty surrounding the start-up date of the new Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power reactor.

Emergency phone calls may not be possible in parts of France if there are prolonged power cuts this winter, according to the CEO of telecoms operator Orange.

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