A widespread blackout cut power to millions of people across Brazil’s northeast on Friday, but officials insisted the outage should not raise worries about the energy supply in a nation that will host an Olympics and a World Cup.
Officials said the power failures began in the early morning and quickly spread across eight states in the vast region. An estimate by energy companies indicated at least 13 million people were affected.
In some areas, the power was only out for a few minutes, in other areas a few hours.
Mozart Bandeira Arnaud, director of operations at the Sao Francisco Hydroelectric Company, the biggest supplier of energy in the area, told the Globo TV network that power was mostly restored by 8am and that the problem originated in a substation that feeds high-transmission lines leading to three other energy suppliers, causing the failure to ripple across the region.
“There was a failure in an electronic component that was part of protection system of the substation,” Arnaud said.
He said this triggered the security system of the Luiz Gonzaga substation in Pernambuco state to automatically shut down, cutting power to six high-transmission power lines running from the station, causing the blackouts to quickly spread.
“As the substation was very large, the effects were felt in several regions,” Arnaud told Globo.
The blackouts hit four cities scheduled to host World Cup soccer matches in 2014, but Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said officials were confident that energy supplies would not be a problem during the events.
He said that there is a “committee established to work continuously through the Cup” to avoid such failures, though he did not describe what the committee was doing.
Lobao, speaking at a news conference in Brasilia, said a failure at the substation was the probable cause of the blackout, but that he and other officials would meet next week and provide a detailed report within days.
The minister defended Brazil’s grid as “robust and modern” and said that such failures can happen in any nation.
Oliveira, president of the Sao Francisco Hydroelectric Co, told reporters in Recife, the northeastern city where it is headquartered, that “the most important thing now is that the cause of the problem is not preventing the restoration of energy.”