Azerbaijan was plunged into darkness on July 3, following the country’s worst power outage since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
The blackout was caused by an explosion at a hydroelectric power plant (HPP) in the northern city of Mingacevir, according to authorities. A spike in power consumption caused by soaring summer temperatures led to an overload at one of the plant’s transformers. A fire broke out at 08:25 in the morning but was put out within 20 minutes. No casualties were reported.
Baku and 40 other cities and regions suffered outages as a result of the incident. According to the energy ministry, power was restored within hours in many areas and at essential facilities such as hospitals, military bases and Baku’s underground and airport.
A spokesman for Azerbaijan’s national energy utility, Azerenergy, told independent outlet Real TV later in the day that extra electricity was being imported from Georgia and Russia.
On the evening of July 3, however, Baku and other regions suffered a second blackout. Authorities have not identified its cause.
BP, the operator of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz and Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) oil and gas projects, said the initial blackout had not affected production. It noted that the electricity systems at its facilities had been switched to standalone generators.
SOCAR, the national oil company (NOC), said that offshore oil operations were unaffected, but there were “some temporary problems with onshore production.”
Azerbaijan is undergoing a heat wave which has seen temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius. The increased use of air conditioners has caused demand for power to rise, according to officials. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has ordered a government commission to be set up to identify the causes of this week’s incident.
Azerbaijan generated 22.2 million MWh of electricity last year from its fleet of thermal power plants (TPPs) and HPPs. It typically produces more power than it consumes, exporting the surplus to Georgia, Turkey and Iran.