Power outage at Polish plant is felt across European grid

Energy experts worked on Tuesday to restore full operations at Poland's biggest power plant after a network failure.

Energy experts worked on Tuesday to restore full operations at Poland’s biggest power plant after a network failure switched off 10 of the brown coal-fueled Belchatow plant’s 11 units, a disruption felt across Europe’s power network.

Poland needed emergency energy imports from Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to fill in for the suddenly missing power supply. It was a second major outage since 2015 at Belchatow, which provides up to 20 percent of the energy in Poland.

The outage at the lignite-fired station was felt across Europe’s continent-wide network of power grids.

Operators recorded a sudden drop in mains frequency from the standard 50 Hz to about 49.85 Hz. Other power supply companies had to scramble to compensate for what was a major deviation to prevent consumers from feeling the change.

Officials said the outage was the units’ automatic reply to a failure at a nearby power switchboard where 10 of Belchatow’s units are connected. The 11th unit, the largest, is connected to a different switchboard and was not affected.

Poland’s chief energy distributor, state mining and energy giant PGE, said on Tuesday that eight of the units had been restored but that restarting them after a total cut was a big challenge.

PGE spokesperson Beata Jarosz-Dziekanowska said the nationwide energy system was working properly and no power shortages were expected.

“As the system’s operator, we have the required reserves, and we can always use imports,” Jarosz-Dziekanowska said.

The outage underscored the need for a diversification of Poland’s energy sources. The country of 38 million gets 65 percent of its power from black coal and lignite, mostly from its own deposits.

Environmental groups say Poland is Europe’s laggard in phasing out polluting fossil fuels and introducing clean energy.

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