Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) has launched an investigation into massive power outages that left much of the country without electricity on Wednesday.
Electricity supplies to parts of Yerevan and some Armenian regions were cut off early in the afternoon after sudden fluctuations in the power distribution system reportedly caused two large power plants to halt their operations. They were restored in the following hours thanks to emergency electricity imports from neighboring Iran and Georgia.
The Armenian government discussed the disruption on Thursday at a weekly meeting in Yerevan. The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, told Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and government ministers that he has ordered his subordinates to “establish the causes of the disruption of the energy system.”
“Although there are preliminary findings, I think that we need to conduct an in-depth study, investigation and conclude whether or not there was a [malicious] intent, whether there are guilty persons or whether inactivity was displayed,” said Vanetsian. “I will report the results [to the government.]”
Hakob Vartanian, a deputy minister for local government and infrastructures, suggested on Wednesday that the outages may have been caused by a “technological problem” at one of the power plants or an electricity frequency fluctuation in Iran. The Armenian and Iranian power grids are connected to each other with two high-voltage transmission lines.
Pashinian said at the cabinet meeting that the authorities now believe the causes of the country’s worst power supply disruption since 2013 were most probably “external.” “But we need to understand [for certain] what the real cause was,” he said after Vanetsian’s announcement.
Incidentally, Pashinian spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by phone on Wednesday evening. It is not clear whether he discussed the power outages with Rouhani.
The premier on Thursday thanked the Iranian and Georgian governments for their “very prompt assistance” which he said helped to prevent longer power shortages in Armenia. He said at the same time that the Armenian energy system demonstrated “sufficient flexibility and viability” during the emergency.
Armenia was hit by similar power outages in November 2013. Government officials in Yerevan blamed it on a brief disruption in electricity supplies from Iran.