Widespread outages in Europe are a nightmare for consumers, system operators, and governments. While rare, they can represent a powerful and costly disruption to daily life. In 2006, Europe experienced a widespread blackout that affected more than 15 million people, including many in Poland. The cause was a scheduling change in the routine disconnection of a transmission line in northwest Germany that was not adequately communicated to neighbouring system operators. The crisis led to measures to strengthen coordination among system operators in Europe.

The proposed Regulation on Risk Preparedness takes a further step to better coordinate resources to avoid, prepare for, respond to, and evaluate electricity crisis situations. Under the regulation, Member States are required to prepare national risk preparedness plans, which must include regional measures. The plans serve to create greater certainty that, in the event of a crisis—including one crossing country borders—Member States respond in a coordinated fashion, and in a way that optimises resources regionally.

Against this background, author Edith Bayer poses the question of whether Poland can rely on its neighbours in the event of a widespread electricity crisis.

She explores the Commission’s proposed framework for

  • preparing for, responding to, and ex-post evaluation of crisis situations, including regional crises;
  • assessing resource adequacy and defining reliability standards on a regional and European Union level; and
  • the evolution of responsibilities and governance structures under the proposed risk preparedness and electricity regulations.

Coordination around risk preparedness is just one of the myriad benefits expected from the internal European electricity market, including lower costs for consumers, pooling risk, efficient system operation, and lower infrastructure investment costs. The Commission’s proposal on risk preparedness takes some steps towards strengthening certainty over the ability to rely on neighbouring resources in a widespread crisis. As negotiations around these legislative proposals advance, it will be important to consider where they provide opportunities for Poland to strengthen its national interests through greater regional coordination and cooperation.