Europe's electrical vulnerability geography : historical interpretations of the 2006 'European blackout'

E.B.A. Vleuten, van der, V.C. Lagendijk

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    The so-called "European Blackout" of 4 November 2006 counts as a key example of present day transnational infrastructure vulnerability and an important reference in current debates on transnational electricity infrastructure governance. This is best examplified by the debate itself, where proponents of more European Union (EU) influence spoke of a "blackout", and most transmission network operators interpreted the same event as a "disturbance". Several commentators from both sides argued that to understand what happened, one must look at history. Yet almost none of the official policy responses goes more than a decade deep. As an answer and supplement to that, this paper uses novel historical research to make visible how historical choices, path dependencies, and ways of dealing with these later, shaped Europe's electric vulnerability geography. We show that the decentralized organization of transnational electricity infrastructure, often associated with power grid fragility today, was a deliberate historical choice for economic as well as reliability reasons. We also address the (meso)regional logic of the failure, foregrounding how stakeholders from different parts of Europe historically chose to collaborate in different ways with due consequences for their involvement in, or exclusion from, the 2006 disturbance. Finally the paper concludes that today's notion of electricity infrastructure "vulnerability" is contested as many stakeholders still find the system extremely reliable, and that this contestation is tied into ongoing struggles over transnational electricity infrastructure governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEindhoven
    Number of pages35
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Publication series

    NameTensions of Europe working paper series


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