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Power station block puts Italy at risk of blackouts

ITALY'S POWER industry has said that there is little it can do to prevent a repeat of the 20 hour blackout that paralysed the country over one weekend in the last weekend in September.

Four separate investigations are under way to determine why the lights went out on 28 September.

But the problem is being blamed on failure of a transmission line supplying Italy with Swiss-generated power.

Italy is 17% dependent on imported electricity, although this rises to 30% at peak times.

The power cut followed supply shortages resulting in 'brown outs' - where voltages are reduced - in June.

There is little prospect of Italy becoming less reliant on French and Swiss electricity, the country's electricity regulator said.

This is because of almost insurmountable political opposition to the construction of new power stations.

Tussling between Italy's central and regional governments, and powerful public opposition have thwarted recent attempts to build new power stations, said a spokeswoman for power regulator Autorita per l'Energia Elettrica il Gas.

The government wants to build a 6,000MW gas fired power station but has failed to gain planning consent for the project in any region, she said.

In the wake of the power cut, parliament is rushing through new energy legislation that will effectively nationalise Italy's transmission system.

The transmission system is currently owned by private firm ENEL and maintained by state-owned company GRTN.

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