October 26, 2012 — In what is reportedly Brazil's worst power outage since 2001, 53 million Brazilians lost power for around 4 hours in some places. Officials are blaming the blackout on substation fires that short-circuited a transmission line.
The fire struck near substations in the city of Colinas in the state of Tocantins, and also in Imperatriz in the state of Maranhao. Those two substations connected the northern and the northeastern electric grids and channeled multiple gigawatts of power generation.
The blackout has been called a compete collapse of Brazil's northeastern grid. Geographically, it swept over parts of 12 of Brazil's 26 states.
Marcio Zimmerman, Brazil's energy minister, has called multiple emergency meetings so the government can more thoroughly explain the causes behind the power shortages that are overloading the grid. Two other large blackouts have affected millions of residents in as many months.
Some of Brazil's worst power outages happened in 2000 and 2001 when insufficient rainfall and drought conditions negatively impacted its hydropower-based generation capacity. Brazil gets 90 percent of its energy from hydropower.
Brazil is investing heavily in its transmission system in advance of its scheduled hosting duties of the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympic Games. The country plans to build as many as 48 new hydroelectric plans by 2020 to keep pace with its own massive economic growth.