Baby, It's Hot Outside / As Mercury Rises, IEC Turns Out Lights

The Israel Electric Corporation instituted rolling half-hour blackouts throughout the country yesterday afternoon because its electrical system was overloaded by heavy usage due to the hot, hazy weather. The power cuts are estimated to have cost the economy NIS 25 million.

"The corporation is aware that the situation is unpleasant, and it apologizes for that," the IEC said, adding that it has long warned the public of the dangerously low level of power reserves and the potential difficulties of coping with a spike in energy use.

At 1:30 P.M., total energy consumption had risen to 7,850 megawatts, while the IEC's power production capacity stood at only 7,600 megawatts - though when its facilities are running properly, the company can produce some 11,700 megawatts of electricity. An emergency was therefore declared at 1:50 P.M., and power was cut in several communities shortly thereafter.

The power cuts were caused by various factors, including unexpected technical malfunctions at power stations in Haifa, Alon Tavor and Hagit. Several other stations were already out of commission, as they were undergoing maintenance scheduled to be completed later this month.

The chairman of the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee, MK Ofir Akunis, said he would convene a special meeting to address the issue of shortcomings in Israel's electrical network. "The summer is just beginning, and we need to ensure a situation in which the power supply will not be halted," he said.

Yesterday's hot, hazy conditions will subside somewhat today, but while temperatures will be lower, the weather will remain unseasonably warm. Tomorrow will see a steeper drop in temperatures, and the rest of the week will bring relatively pleasant conditions.

Temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius yesterday in the Galilee Panhandle and the Tiberias area, while in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, thermometers hit 35 to 36 degrees.