Milan blackouts blamed on air conditioning as heatwave intensifies

A series of blackouts has left parts of Italy's economic capital in the dark for hours at a time in recent days, after power usage in the city soared amid temperatures far beyond seasonal averages.

Milan blackouts blamed on air conditioning as heatwave intensifies
The demand for electricity is coonstant rising in densely-populated Milan, says the head of the city's energy network. File photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

As northern Italy swelters in temperatures of up to 36C with high humidity, a massive increase in electricity usage for cooling day and night has reportedly pushed the city’s electricity grid beyond its limits.

Milan’s world-famous Duomo on Thursday was forced to cancel the evening opening of its terraces due to the blackouts, shops were left without light or air conditioning, and disruption continued over the past few days in “all four corners of the city” according to local news outlet MilanoToday.

Electricity supplies continued to cut out on Tuesday for “half an hour here, an hour there, two, three, or even 14 hours,” MilanoToday reported 

“Long and shorter blackouts occurred in several areas of the city. From Viale Fulvio Testi to Piazzale Macciachini, Viale Sarca and Viale Jenner, many buildings were left in the dark due to the breakdowns,” the report read.

It was impossible to see how bad the situation was overall as there was no list of affected areas or overview available from the city’s electricity provider Unareti, reports noted.

HEATWAVE: 16 Italian cities on alert with peaks of 43C

Unareti told the city’s local edition of newspaper Corriere della Sera the issues were being “resolved in the vast majority of cases in a few minutes”.

Energy consumption in the city has reportedly increased by ten percent as temperatures rose over the last week and by 35 percent in a month amid a series of increasingly intense early summer heatwaves.

Milan is already among the European cities with the highest electrical power requirements per square kilometre, equal to five times that of Rome.

The city needs an ever-higher power supply due to demand for electric appliances, as well as electric vehicles, Unareti’s managing director Francesco Gerli told Corriere della Sera.

He said the “increasing use of air conditioners” as well as the move away from gas appliances is partly driving the surge in demand in central Milan, which covers “a relatively small area, completely urbanized, quite vertical”.

“There are now entire neighbourhoods where the power lines are electricity: the gas network is not even considered,” he said, pointing out that residents are buying electric “induction hobs instead of gas cookers, heat pumps instead of boilers, electric cars”.

With demand for electric appliances rising and 30 percent of vehicles in Milan expected to be electric by 2030, Unereti is working on increasing network capacity, he said.

Milan residents affected by electricity blackouts can check the situation in their area via the Unereti website.

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Heatwave: Most Italian cities set to be placed on red alert over scorching temperatures

The Italian Health Ministry was expected on Saturday to issue a red heat alert for 22 of the country’s 27 biggest cities.

Heatwave: Most Italian cities set to be placed on red alert over scorching temperatures

Caronte (Charon), the subtropical anticyclone that has been pushing temperatures across Italy well above average for over a week now, showed no sign of easing off on Friday.

And, with temperatures up and down the stivale expected to further increase over the weekend, Italian health authorities were expected to issue a red alert for 22 of the country’s 27 major cities.

Red alerts are generally issued in response to critical weather conditions, including temperatures that are regarded as a serious threat to the health of the entire population and not merely of the most vulnerable (i.e. children, the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions).

As this map from the Health Ministry shows below many Italian cities – 19 in total – were already on red alert on Friday for high temperatures.

The Italian cities expected to be placed on red alert over the coming weekend were: Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Bolzano, Brescia, Cagliari, Campobasso, Catania, Civitavecchia, Florence, Frosinone, Latina, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara, Reggio Calabria, Rieti, Rome, Trieste e Viterbo.

Only five of the country’s 27 biggest cities were set remain clear of the government’s red alert, though temperatures in such urban areas were still likely to be exceptionally high.

READ ALSO: Italian wildfires ‘three times worse’ than average as heatwave continues

Turin, Venice and Genoa were set to be placed on yellow alert (no immediate health risk for the population), whereas Milan and Verona were likely to be issued an amber alert (the heat might pose a threat to the health of at-risk groups).

At any rate, regardless of the type of alert for each individual city, the first weekend of July was set to be a scorching one, with some areas of the country set to see the local thermometer reach 42C.

Once again, central and southern Italian regions were likely to be hit the hardest by the heatwave as experts warned that temperatures will be stably above 35C in Lazio, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. 

In the north, temperatures were forecast to swing between 30C and 35C depending on the area of interest.

So, how long will residents have to put up with the current heatwave? According to the latest forecasts, anticyclone Caronte should begin retreating from the country from Wednesday, July 6th. Temperatures in line with the season average should return in the northern regions first and then in the rest of the peninsula over the following 48 hours.

READ ALSO: Drought hits Italy’s hydroelectric plants amid energy crisis

Alas, unprecedented heatwaves such as the one currently affecting the country will become more and more frequent in the future.

Notably, according to Antonello Pasini, a leading physicist at the CNR (National Research Council), the drastic climate change crisis means that most Italians will be forced to endure summers with “temperatures far above average” in the coming years.