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Europe power outages blamed on Germany

A chain of power outages that swept through Belgium, France, Spain and even touched Morocco was blamed Sunday on Germany, but experts were divided about the original trigger for the blackout that affected millions of homes.

The government of North Rhine Westphalia state, which was worst hit by the outage, said a load-balancing error after a surge of power from German wind-power turbines had played a role. Too much power entered the German grid and parts of it shut down.

The temporary closure of a 380,000-volt trunk line so that a high ship could pass beneath it along the Ems river also may have played a role, the Eon company, one of Germany’s four big utilities, said.

The line was re-activated and the transfer of the 294-metre Norwegian Pearl down the waterway was postponed to Monday or later.

In Germany, 1 million households suffered blackouts of up to 50 minutes at about 10 pm on Saturday night, while millions more noticed lights flicker. In France, 5 million people were left in the dark. Regions of Spain lost power. Even a cable to Morocco was affected.

German government officials immediately slammed the dominance of the big four utilities, which are unpopular because they have raised prices and are turning in excellent profits for shareholders.

Economics Minister Michael Glos demanded Eon put a report on his table ‘so that such incidents, as far as possible, do not repeat.’

© 2006 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur