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School of Engineering's Dr. Barry Hayes explains why electricity blackouts happen

22 Oct 2021

Our electricity grid is facing serious challenges, with growing warnings around energy shortages and possible blackouts. According to the Government, we can be "reasonably confident" that the lights will stay on this winter, but we "cannot rule out" the possibility of electricity blackouts in Ireland over the next few years.

But what exactly is a blackout, and why do they occur? What can we learn from other countries that have experienced major blackouts? And why, in Ireland, one of the most developed countries in the world, are we facing the real possibility of electricity blackouts this winter?


A blackout is the most severe form of electricity outage, a grid failure that results in total power loss to a large region. Blackouts are distinct from the localised power outages that might occur during a storm when heavy winds topple an electricity pole near your home and a repair crew arrives to fix the damage. In these cases, the power outage is confined to a small part of the overall electricity grid (although this may not be of much consolation if you lose the contents of your freezer).

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Energy Engineering

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