Electricity Rationing, Blackouts A Reality For Millions Watching World Cup

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For millions of soccer fans around the world, being able to watch their country play in the World Cup is a luxury: People in poor countries have to suffer through rolling blackouts and electricity rationing as massive amounts of power is diverted to meet surging electricity demands of the World Cup.

Soccer fans in Zimbabwe were outraged to find out power companies were rationing their power to meet the surging electricity demand. Blackouts are a regular occurrence in the country, but some of the rationing done by the  Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority is done at night during the World Cup games.

SW Radio Africa reports ZESA is “facing angry and dismayed customers” who are demanding “the company to suspend power rationing during the period of the tournament to enable the public to watch the matches on television.”

“Power outages are a daily problem in the country but when it takes place before or in the middle of a football match, which just happens to be part of the World Cup, it can be a very harrowing experience for fans,” said SWRA correspondent Simon Muchemwa. “Most fans have now turned to sports bars where they pay a fee to watch a match as owners are using generators to power electricity.”

The small West African country of Ghana is actually rationing its power so people are able to watch World Cup games. Quartz reported the country rationed power so Ghanaians could watch their team play the U.S. last night — the U.S. won 2 to 1.

Low water levels at the hydroelectric dams on the Volta River this year have created power shortages across Ghana. Utilities have already imposed electricity rationing schemes to conserve power, but did not want their customers to miss the World Cup.

To make sure there was enough power to watch last night’s game, Ghana purchased power from its neighbor, Ivory Coast. The country’s largest smelter, Volta Aluminum, will also slow production to save more power for soccer fans.

“These plans are put in place for consumers to watch uninterruptible football matches during the World Cup,” said Ghana’s Public Utilities Regulatory Commission.

A severe heat wave that’s hitting New Delhi, India has also stoked worries of blackouts during World Cup games. The region will be rationing power during the soccer tournament to make sure fans can watch the game and get cold beer at the same time.

The UK Telegraph reported, “Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung announced power will not be supplied to the smart shopping malls which have spread throughout the capital in recent years, while government offices will face blackouts for an hour each day and halogen street lamps will also be switched off at night.”

But even this may not be enough to keep the lights on into the wee hours of the morning so soccer fans can binge-watch games. Alternative power sources are being sought out to fill the gap.

India’s neighbor, Pakistan, even suffered some blackouts. Within hours of the World Cup kicking off, Pakistan utility K-Electric customers suffered rolling blackouts. A harsh Twitter exchange between journalists, utility customers and the utility took place as K-Electric raced to get the power back on.

The utility said that power outages are common in the summer months because more electricity is being demanded than can be supplied. But in this case, the blackouts were caused by a water pipe that burst, causing 10 feet of water to fill an underground trench.

There are even concerns that Brazil, the host country for the month-long tournament, may not be able to keep the lights on as electricity demand surges. The country is going through a bad drought and gets more than two-thirds of its electricity from hydroelectric dams — which are dependent on rainfall.

“Are we completely free from blackouts? No, not completely,” said José Rosenblatt, a Brazil-based energy consultant. “We still might have one during the World Cup.”

But Brazil’s government has no intention of rationing its power. Business Insider notes that major power rationing during the World Cup would be a huge political folly for President Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election this year.

“If a blackout were to occur during the World Cup, the 12 stadiums would theoretically remain lit from back-up generators, but cities and their hotels, roads and public transit would go dark,” Business Insider reported.

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