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GCE-Energy energy experts shared their opinion with “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” on the causes of electric power blackout in Moscow region due to power lines failures caused by freezing rain as well as on methods on countering weather ano

Background information
Let us remind you that December 25 – 29 237 towns in Moscow region were left without power due to power lines failures caused by freezing rain, falling trees, extensive snowfall, and strong winds. Fifteen hundred transformer substations went offline. A state of emergency was declared in 18 Moscow region districts by Boris Gromov, Moscow region Governor.  Emergency teams from 22 subjects of Russian Federation totaling over 3000 in personnel arrived to Moscow region for recovery operations.

As of today, the state of emergency in some Moscow region municipalities is extended until 1 of March. In total, about half a million residents of Russian central regions have suffered some blackout effects. 

A formal comment to “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” (Independent Newspaper)

“An incident in Moscow region is a demonstration of complete helplessness of the system and, as it appears, everyone have awaited a total power system collapse in order to understand the necessity of replacing electric grid equipment” – says Sergey Kolpakov, Deputy Head, Department  of Energy Audit and Regulation, GCE-Energy. “This is applicable not only to districts adjacent to Moscow, but to many other Russian regions as well. The problems in the area of energy security are long standing, but we’re only now encountering their effects”. 
Let us remind you that the incident was caused by a well known, but rare meteorological phenomena – a freezing rain. It is atypical for central Russia. In 1978 our experts have encountered this natural phenomenon on Kol’skiy Peninsula. Back then, there was a large scale physical and mechanical destruction of power lines and support towers as a result of the unexpected ice accumulation.    One could not prepare for this natural event in 3 to 4 days as well as to predict its consequences, even when forecasted in advance.
Sergey Kolpakov also notes that there are regulatory documents that prescribe a buffer zone in vicinity of power lines - a zone, where there should be no trees. “The reasons for not complying with the regulatory acts are always the same – it is the lack of manpower and the hope that the worse won’t happen. Thousands of trees have fallen onto the power lines and it shows that there are systematic errors on behalf of organizations which operate power lines as well as local authorities. There are instances, when it is less expensive to simply refuse to create a buffer zone than to obtain a permit to remove the trees around power lines”. 
GCE-Energy experts listed several ways to avoid similar incidents in the future including, use of ice melting devices which are currently successfully deployed in the northern and near sea regions of the country. These devices do not significantly impact the cost of the entire system, but due to their use the population is not left without power for weeks even during an emergency. Additionally, if a buffer zone can’t be created, an underground cable could be laid. This somewhat expensive method allows to preserve forest and to eliminate any weather effects.  Speaking of modern power lines technologies, it is possible now to build power lines with insulated wire which will significantly increase overall system reliability. 
According to GCE-Energy experts, power lines in Moscow oblast were in dilapidated condition and their service life was long over. They should have been replaced for more modern ones or, at least, for the same ones long time ago. But the extended recovery operations are the necessary evil, taking into account the scope of damage. Additionally, it is necessary to provide for personnel safety during recovery operations, which means that the power has to stay disconnected. On top of this, the snow, wind, lack of manpower delay restoring power as well. “Overall, the problem was accumulating for decades and it has to be solved. Our power grid is in the sixties of the last century” – summarized Sergey Kolpakov. 

Company background information:
GCE-Energy is part of GCE Group and is one of the largest energy auditors in Europe. In Russia, the company clients are Gazprom enterprises, Rosneft, RUSAL, Evraz, SIBUR, TGK-1OGK-1, and others.


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