Rolling blackouts initiated throughout the country

The IEC was forced to initiate rolling blackouts throughout the country Sunday, as the network of power stations was caught at a low point by an ill-timed heat wave. "The early summer found the Electric Company almost at the end of a period of renovations of production units, which was supposed to be finished before the end of June," the company said, apologizing for the inconvenience and pledging to make every effort to bring electricity production back up to speed. Intentional blackouts had to be initiated to protect the power system because several days of high temperatures caused a spike in demand for electricity that surpassed Israel Electric's current production capacity, which itself had been weakened by a series of shortages, the company explained. Springtime renovations in various production units led to a shortage of 1,700 megawatts, compounded by the malfunction of a 550-MW production unit at the Rutenberg power station south of Ashkelon, malfunctions at several smaller production units and the continued absence of the 430-MW Reading power station north of Tel Aviv, which was closed for environmental reasons at the end of February. Additionally, emergency repair work on some of the smaller production units will hopefully bring them back into operation before Monday, Israel Electric spokeswoman Yael Ne'eman said Sunday evening. "We hope that we've gotten through the day and that tomorrow will be a normal day," she added, but could not say for sure that these would be the last intentional blackouts this summer. "The state [of the power network] is constantly abnormal. As long as the reserve is kept at 5 percent-7%, the situation is not good, since every malfunction can cause a power shortage," she said. Ne'eman said that a smaller series of blackouts was initiated last July, when about 500 MW were lacking, but stressed that years can go by between such occurrences, even when unusually high demand puts pressure on the system. "It happens very rarely," she said. National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer assembled a commission headed by electricity administration head Dan Weinstock to investigate the electricity shortages. Weinstock was instructed to submit the commission's conclusions within one week.