Blackout Watch

System Power Outages

Author: Clare Duffy, ESBI, Ireland

Analysis of system power outages can help us learn and avoiding similar events in the future. If you have information on any blackouts, please e-mail to

February 4, 2014, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: More than three million people across eleven states of Brazil lost power for approximately 38 minutes. In some areas, the outage lasted over four hours, including parts of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro. Officials blamed a short circuit on a transmission line between the states of Tocantins and Goiás. They believe this caused part of the system to shut down automatically. Sweltering heat was not the cause; however, the outage came less than a week after peak demand reached an all-time high of 84,000MW.

March 5, 2014, Garissa, Kenya: A fire broke out in a power station in Garissa that caused a major power outage in the surrounding area. Kenya Power said the early morning blaze destroyed three power generation machines, which led to a blackout for the region that is home to over 120,000. Garissa is currently not connected to the national grid and receives electricity through an isolated power system. A power line is currently being constructed to connect the area to Mwingi and from there the national system. The cause of the fire was still under review.

March 12, 2014, Darwin, Australia: A tripped circuit breaker at a substation brought down the power grid in the city of Darwin at around 1:30 a.m. The entire city of 130,000 residents was without power for more than 12 hours, with the outage reportedly spreading to towns up to 300km (185 miles) away.

April 15, 2014, Toronto, Canada: A transmission issue knocked out power to over 120,000 thousand residents and businesses in western Toronto. It took workers nearly three hours to restore power shortly before 11p.m. It is believed the outage was caused by a Hydro pole in Etobicoke that was erected under a Hydro One high-voltage line. Officials say the minimum clearance between the distribution line and the transmission line was encroached upon and prompted a short circuit.

April 21, 2014, Aleppo, Syria: Syria's bloody civil war took another toll on its residents this week. Rebels cut high-voltage power lines between Aleppo, a city of over 2 million people, and the power stations of al-Zarbeh and Hreitan. This led to a complete power blackout that lasted at least one week. The conflict in Syria has so far killed more than 150,000 people and forced nearly half of the population to flee their homes. Eventually the rebels and the Syrian government reached a truce, which led to the restoration of power to the area within 10 days of the outage.

April 23, 2014, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA: A power outage left around 30,000 residents in Baton Rouge without power for roughly two hours. Power utility Entergy was performing annual maintenance on the power system at the time, which made it difficult to redirect power to needed areas. When a generator unexpectedly stopped, it caused an equipment failure that interrupted power to a high-voltage transmission line.

April 28, 2014, Nairobi, Kenya: A nearly-nationwide blackout hit Kenya and lasted for nearly four hours in most areas. A broken high-voltage conductor at a substation in Nairobi triggered a series of failures on the national grid after it cut off generation from Olkaria and the Seven Forks hydro-electric dams. Kenya Power currently supplies 1,250 megawatts to over 2 million customers; however demand is at roughly 1,700 megawatts, most of which comes from the hydro-electric plants.

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