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Energy crisis: What to do in case of a power outage in Austria

A recent power outage in Austria left thousands of households without electricity and hit tram lines and traffic lights in Innsbruck. Here's what you need to do if it happens where you are.

Energy crisis: What to do in case of a power outage in Austria
What to do in case of a blackout in Austria? (Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash)

A large-scale power failure occurred in western Austria on Monday August 8th, affecting supply in 33 municipalities, including the Tyrol capital Innsbruck and its surrounding areas.

The power outage happened at around 10:45 am and lasted less than one hour, but was enough to leave thousands of households without energy, affect tram lines and shut down traffic lights, according to the daily Tiroler Tageszeitung.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Mountain railways such as the Innsbruck Nordkettenbahn stood still. In one of the gondolas, about 20 people waited for the onward journey, broadcaster ORF reported. The power failure also stopped passenger elevators. In several cases, the fire brigade had to open lift doors.

Tinetz restored supply at around 11:30 am and is investigating the causes of the failure – they suspect a construction work error could have caused the shortage.

So what to do in the event of a power failure?

Following the outage Austrian power suppliers shared tips and the proper procedures to follow during power failures.

According to Wiener Netze, if the electricity in your apartment or house fails, it is essential to keep calm. There are six steps you need to follow.

The first is to create light by getting a flashlight or candle or activating the flashlight function on your smartphone. “This allows you to orient yourself in the rooms and reduce the risk of injury”, the company said.

Tyrol’s Tinetz company also highlights that a power shortage is not an emergency, “so do not call emergency services such as fire brigade, ambulance, or similar”.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

Then, you need to try and access who is affected by the power failure. Just look out the window to see if there is still light in your street – you can also ask your neighbours if they have electricity at home.

If you are the only one affected, check whether individual fuses have failed and see if any fuses are set to off. If that is the case, you need to simply flip the levers again or replace old fuses with new ones.

You should understand how your fuse box works (Photo by mostafa mahmoudi on Unsplash)

You should immediately unplug electrical appliances that no longer work and replace them with new devices once you have energy back on.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: How to save money on energy bills in Austria

If other apartments or houses are also affected, you need to contact your local power grid disruption line (in Vienna, that would be calling 0800 500 600, in Tyrol, the number is +43 0 50708 123). The line should be available around the clock to immediately take care of the damage.

The local power supply companies also provide websites to check for any failures. For Vienna, you can check here. In Tyrol, here.

What to do after the power failures?

You must check your electrical appliances once the power supply is resumed.

Ensure that the last switched-on devices (such as an iron or a boiler) are switched off. If your power supply was interrupted for more than six hours, you should empty the refrigerator.

Your gas boiler automatically resumes working after a power failure. If not, turn the main switch off and on again or contact the device manufacturer.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Is it worth switching to solar power in Austria?

Check all clocks that work with electricity to update the time. Also, check if any electrical devices no longer work – they should be taken to a repair shop or disposed of.

How do I prepare for a power outage?

You can prepare for a possible power failure.

First, it is important to get familiarised with the fuse box (including the key to it) in your home. You should also keep replacement fuses at hand and ensure that you have sufficient battery power for your alarm systems in case of prolonged failures.

You should also keep a flashlight with working batteries and the telephone number of your local power grid malfunction line in case of any emergencies.

If you don’t have a battery-powered radio, you can check the news with the radio on your car or even use the station’s app on a smartphone.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

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How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

European governments are announcing emergency measures on a near-weekly basis to protect households and businesses from the energy crisis stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine.

How European countries are spending billions on easing energy crisis

Hundreds of billions of euros and counting have been shelled out since Russia invaded its pro-EU neighbour in late February.

Governments have gone all out: from capping gas and electricity prices to rescuing struggling energy companies and providing direct aid to households to fill up their cars.

The public spending has continued, even though European Union countries had accumulated mountains of new debt to save their economies during the Covid pandemic in 2020.

But some leaders have taken pride at their use of the public purse to battle this new crisis, which has sent inflation soaring, raised the cost of living and sparked fears of recession.

After announcing €14billion in new measures last week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi boasted the latest spending put Italy, “among the countries that have spent the most in Europe”.

The Bruegel institute, a Brussels-based think tank that is tracking energy crisis spending by EU governments, ranks Italy as the second-biggest spender in Europe, after Germany.

READ ALSO How EU countries aim to cut energy bills and avoid blackouts this winter

Rome has allocated €59.2billion since September 2021 to shield households and businesses from the rising energy prices, accounting for 3.3 percent of its gross domestic product.

Germany tops the list with €100.2billion, or 2.8 percent of its GDP, as the country was hit hard by its reliance on Russian gas supplies, which have dwindled in suspected retaliation over Western sanctions against Moscow for the war.

On Wednesday, Germany announced the nationalisation of troubled gas giant Uniper.

France, which shielded consumers from gas and electricity price rises early, ranks third with €53.6billion euros allocated so far, representing 2.2 percent of its GDP.

Spending to continue rising
EU countries have now put up €314billion so far since September 2021, according to Bruegel.

“This number is set to increase as energy prices remain elevated,” Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at Bruegel, told AFP.

The energy bills of a typical European family could reach €500 per month early next year, compared to €160 in 2021, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The measures to help consumers have ranged from a special tax on excess profits in Italy, to the energy price freeze in France, and subsidies public transport in Germany.

But the spending follows a pandemic response that increased public debt, which in the first quarter accounted for 189 percent of Greece’s GDP, 153 percent in Italy, 127 percent in Portugal, 118 percent in Spain and 114 percent in France.

“Initially designed as a temporary response to what was supposed to be a temporary problem, these measures have ballooned and become structural,” Tagliapietra said.

“This is clearly not sustainable from a public finance perspective. It is important that governments make an effort to focus this action on the most vulnerable households and businesses as much as possible.”

Budget reform
The higher spending comes as borrowing costs are rising. The European Central Bank hiked its rate for the first time in more than a decade in July to combat runaway inflation, which has been fuelled by soaring energy prices.

The yield on 10-year French sovereign bonds reached an eight-year high of 2.5 percent on Tuesday, while Germany now pays 1.8 percent interest after boasting a negative rate at the start of the year.

The rate charged to Italy has quadrupled from one percent earlier this year to four percent now, reviving the spectre of the debt crisis that threatened the eurozone a decade ago.

“It is critical to avoid debt crises that could have large destabilising effects and put the EU itself at risk,” the International Monetary Fund warned in a recent blog calling for reforms to budget rules.

The EU has suspended until 2023 rules that limit the public deficit of countries to three percent of GDP and debt to 60 percent.

The European Commission plans to present next month proposals to reform the 27-nation bloc’s budget rules, which have been shattered by the crises.