Molly Hu
Molly Hu
Jun 18 · 4 min read
Image copyright: NBC News

Power has been restored to much of Argentina and Uruguay after a massive blackout hit Argentina, Uruguay, and other parts of South America on Sunday, leaving tens of millions of people in the dark, disrupting transit, and shuttering businesses.

What do we know about the blackout?

Alejandra Martinez, a spokeswoman for the company, described the power cut as unprecedented.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has promised a full investigation.

The blackout was prompted by a failure in an electrical grid that serves both Argentina and Uruguay.

But it’s still unclear what caused that transmission disruption. Argentina’s energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, told the media that the investigation could take up to 15 days.

“At the moment we’re not ruling out any possibility. But we don’t think it is down to a cyber attack,” he told reporters.

Image copyrightAFP/GETTYImage caption | This woman lit candles when the power went off in her home in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo

How have people been affected?

The combined population of Argentina and Uruguay is about 48 million people.

Among the affected provinces in Argentina were Santa Fe, San Luis, Formosa, La Rioja, Chubut, Cordoba and Mendoza, reports said. Tierra del Fuego in the far south was the only area that remained unaffected because it is not connected to the power grid.

In neighbouring Paraguay, parts of Ayolas, Pilar, Villalbín and the border areas of Misiones and Ñeembucú were also without power.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage caption | Constitucion railway station in Buenos Aires remained in the dark

One of Argentina’s biggest water companies, Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, warned those without power to conserve water, as the distribution of drinking water had been affected by the outage.

Social media reports of the power outage were widespread — from the capital Buenos Aires in the north, to Mendoza in the west and Comodoro Rivadavia in the south, among many other cities. Residents posted pictures of dark towns and cities and long lines of cars queuing at petrol stations.

“Everything came to a halt. Elevators, water pumps, everything. We were left adrift,” Juan Borges, who lives in Buenos Aires, told the BBC.

“There are some elderly people on the eighth floor but nothing happened, because the power cut was short. If it had gone on for longer it would have been a whole different story.” he said.

Local media have been showing voters casting their local election ballots in the dark, with mobile phones being used as lanterns.

Retail sales drop

Small shop owners expecting that Argentina’s holiday weekend would boost their sales took a hit, as did local tourist industries. The economic impact might have been even higher had the power outage occurred on a weekday, when demand for power is typically greater.

“There are many tourists, but few enter my shop. There are no sales because of the power outage,” said Paola Mogro, an attendant at Artesanias del Milagro.

During long holiday weekends, the shop is normally teeming with visitors. But on the Sunday of the outage, they were scarce. Even as parades and festivities were held on the streets, commerce was on hold in most stores. Without lights or cash registers — or access to payment terminals — business was definitely down for the day.

Similar scenes were played out across much of the rest of the country, with businesses often forced to shut down and income from a holiday forever lost.

Energy scenarios

During the Fernandez de Kirchner administration, before 2015, power was heavily subsidised but upgrades to the energy infrastructure were also not as well funded. Since Macri took office in 2015, subsidies have been scrapped and electricity bills have increased significantly, but so has the quality of maintenance.

There is a long way for issues like unstable grids and ever-rising electricity bills yet to be resolved. Even in developed countries like USA, more and more power outages occur from emergencies like wildfires and storms.

Google Search results from “Wildfires and outage”

How can we prepare for the next outage?

Compared to relying on grid companies or governments for a radical resolution, e.g. upgrading the out-of-date and overloaded grids, it is more realistic to built up self-sufficient microgrids, which are reliable, independent and cost-efficient in the long run.

Powered by sustainable energy like solar, wind and geothermy, microgrids allow people to live totally independent from power grids. What’s more, for those live grid-tied, green energy can be profitable when spare power is transferred to grid.

When Topanga was left unplugged last November 9, the first full day of the Woolsey Fire, iCAN plug-and-play backup power became most desirable to local residents.

Self sufficient energy system built in Baja California, Mexico

With blockchain technology, energy plays more roles than electricity. A modeling project is being built in Punta Chivato, Mexico, to realize electricity transactions among community members.

One solar energy system built in offgrid community in Punta Chivato, Mexico

Emergencies, natural disasters or man-made accidents, occur more often than before. We could, and have to, prepare for emergencies.

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Molly Hu

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Molly Hu

Eloncity dweller.

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ELONCITY

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