Power restored after Brazilian blackout

Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 11, 2009 – With no clear explanation yet in sight, officials in Brazil are convening to try to find the cause of a sweeping blackout that left some 60 million people in the dark November 11. The power was restored before dawn the same day.

Officials believe the crash may have been caused by a fault in transmission lines coming from Itaipu, a 14 GW hydroelectric dam that provides 20 percent of Brazil’s power and 90 percent of Paraguay’s.

The border area where Itaipu sits was hit with strong storms the night of the blackout, however plant officials say the facility was operating as planned at the time of the power outage.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called an emergency meeting of his energy ministers to explain the blackout, which lasted about five hours and left major metropolitan areas such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro without power.

The blackout affected 18 of Brazil’s 26 states, including the capital, and left all of neighboring Paraguay without electricity as well.

The incident is already being politicized and used to call into question the reliability of the country’s electric grid – as well as its readiness to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

The last time the country suffered a blackout of this magnitude was ten years ago when a bolt of lightning struck a transmission line near San Paulo. However many Brazilians also remember the government-imposed energy rationing that took place two years later when a severe drought hampered the hydroelectric generation that the country depends upon.

Brazil gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric sources, and has made some attempts in recent years to diversify its energy portfolio, including biomass derived from sugarcane.

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