At around 10.15 pm, over 5 million French subscribers living in a large number of metropolitan “départements” were deprived of electricity between 30 and 75 min depending on the sector affected following an incident on the German very high voltage network. According to the electricity transmission system operator, unexpected electricity fluxes during the scheduled shutdown of two 400 KV lines at around 9.50 pm would have caused knock-on effect overloads disabling a large number of power lines within the European network. Cut in two at 10.13 pm by the North Adriatic Sea, the European network was completely imbalanced with excess production in the Eastern section and consumption much higher than production in the Western section, including France.

Such imbalances had to be corrected within seconds of their occurrence to prevent complete collapse of the European electricity system or “black-out”. For this purpose, safety plcs interrupted a proportion of the consumption in France, as these automatic power cuts contributed to re-establishing the balance; startup upon the relevant system operator’s request for 5,000 MW of production limited the duration of the interruption of distribution of electricity in France. Similar power cuts occurred in all Western European countries.

Apart from people stuck in lifts and the delay of around ten trains, no major incidents were subsequently signalled. Around one hundred thousand inhabitants in North Rhine-Westphalia were also deprived of electricity for over 1 hour, as well as several Italian regions. The sudden drop in temperature may also have contributed to this electrical malfunction.