The Largest Power Outages of All Time

Parts of Manhattan lost power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Parts of Manhattan lost power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Major economies of the world depend on electricity as a source of power for industrial and household use. A power outage can, therefore, cause significant loss and damage that may take days to restore. Power outage or power blackouts can be a long term or short term loss of electricity in a particular area. A power outage is caused by several factors including damage to the transmission line, short circuit, overloading, and vandalism. Power failure can be countered by having a backup power source such as power generators and solar panels.

July 2012 India Blackout

Two major power outages hit the northern and eastern parts of India on July 30 and 31, 2012. The blackout affected millions of people across the country. The July 30 power failure affected close to 400 million people while the July 31 outage affected over 620 million people or half of Indi’s population. About 32 gigawatts of supply capacity went offline initially affecting 320 million people. The extreme heat in the summer of 2012 had raised the power usage in New Delhi to a record high. The late arrival of a monsoon increased power consumption and also reduced the hydropower generation. The power was restored on August 1, 2012. The investigations on the power outage concluded that the power failure might have been caused by weak inter-regional transmission and high loading.

January 2001 India Blackout

A large part of northern India has experienced a major blackout in the history of the country that was only second to the 2012 outage. An estimated 230 million people in Uttar Pradesh were affected by the power failure which occurred on January 2, 2001. The blackout was triggered by the collapse of the substation of the Uttar Pradesh grounding to halt essential services such as business, transport, and domestic supplies in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh. The 12-hour power outage is suspected to have been caused by inadequate transmission equipment while some of the equipment at the grid were too old to function to the required capacity.

November 2014 Bangladesh Blackout

Bangladesh was hit by a major power outage on November 10, 2014. The blackout which began at about noon affected all parts of the country that was linked to the national grid. About 150 million survived without electricity for about 10 hours on that day. As the national grid lost about 400megawatts of power, a chain of reaction set in forcing all the power plants in the country to shut down. Industrial production and other sectors of the economy that depend on electricity came to a halt. Electricity was partially restored in the afternoon but tripped again just after 4 pm. Power was restored few minutes past midnight.

2005 Java–Bali Blackout

2005 Java–Bali blackout was a blackout that took place across Java and Bali on August 18, 2005. The power outage which began at 10:23 hrs affected over 100 million people across the two islands. The outage was caused by the transmission failure between Cilegon and Saguling in West Java. The transmission failure cascaded leading to a shut down at the Paiton plant in East Java. The power resumed at 17:00 hrs with the PLN committing to compensating over 293,000 affected customers

Ten Major Power Outages That Affected Millions

RankBlackoutPeople Affected (in millions)LocationDate
1July 2012 India blackout620India30–31 July 2012
2January 2001 India blackout230India2 January 2001
3November 2014 Bangladesh blackout150Bangladesh1 November 2014
42015 Pakistan blackout140Pakistan26 January 2015
52005 Java–Bali blackout100Indonesia18 Aug 2005
61999 Southern Brazil blackout97Brazil11 March 1999
72009 Brazil and Paraguay blackout87Brazil, Paraguay10–11 Nov 2009
82015 Turkey blackout70Turkey31 March 2015
9Northeast blackout of 200355United States, Canada14–15 August 2003
102003 Italy blackout55Italy, Switzerland28 September 2003

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