Power cut hits southern Germany after substation glitch

MUNICH, Germany Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:45am EST

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MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - A power blackout caused by a technical problem at a substation in Bavaria paralyzed large parts of the southern German city of Munich on Thursday, an unusual occurrence in Europe's biggest economy.

The power cut, which lasted less than two hours, caused chaos during morning rush hour in Germany's third-largest city. Commuters were stranded on trains, trams and the underground and drivers got stuck in traffic jams as traffic lights failed.

Munich's Stadtwerke utility said in a statement about 450,000 customers had been hit. The reason was a small fire which had broken out at a substation, said a police spokesman.

However, officials stressed that the power cut was not due to supply shortages linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to make a speedy switch to renewable power and turn off nuclear plants earlier than planned.

Her vision of a "green revolution" has hit practical obstacles and raised worries of power gaps. Utilities and grid operators warned Merkel earlier this year that her policy could create a gap of up to 10 gigawatts by 2020 -- equivalent to the output of up to 15 power plants.

The ambitious energy switch is probably the biggest domestic policy initiative of Merkel's second term. Already under fire for rising household electricity bills before next year's election, she wants to avoid the prospect of major blackouts which could also hit industry.

(Reporting by Jens Hack, writing by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, editing by Noah Barkin)

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