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Tallinn’s old power system poses electrical and fire hazards

13.12.2012
There are over 10,000 apartments and private houses in Tallinn that still get their electricity supply through the old 3x200 volt power system built up to 80 years ago. Elektrilevi strongly recommends customers on this supply change to the newer 3x230/400 V power system, as the old voltage poses electrical and fire hazards and causes frequent power outages.

The old 3x220 V power system is used in the old Tallinn low voltage network built in 1930s–1960s. Most of the electricity network dating back to that period is located in the Kalamaja, Kopli, Kristiine, Pelgulinn and Kadriorg districts and the Old Town. The electricity network in the rest of Estonia was built later and uses the new power system, which is much more safely grounded electrically.

The old power system has no protective grounding, so fault current protection does not function efficiently. As there is no protection device, you can get an electric shock by touching faulty electrical equipment and there is also a high risk of an electric shock from water pipes. On top of this, research by the Technical Inspection Centre shows that electrical systems in the buildings connected to the old power system are generally in poor condition, and wire insulation was damaged in 38 per cent of the cases studied, and uninsulated sections of the systems that posed electrical and fire hazards were discovered in 46 per cent of the cases. Statistics from the Estonian Rescue Board show that 182 fires were caused by faults in electrical equipment in buildings in 2011, one third of them in Tallinn. The report on the Technical Inspection Centre’s research also emphasises that public awareness of the dangers of the old power system is low, so people are not very concerned about the issue.

“Electrical hazards are treacherous because you can’t see or hear them: at some point an appliance without proper protection can give you an electric shock or a broken wire can set your home on fire. You have to take preventive action so that this won’t happen,” says Taavo Randna, head of Elektrilevi Customer Service.

He points out that breakdowns in the old power system in Tallinn are also one of the most frequent causes of power outages in the city. In 2011 a total of 128 breakdowns or nearly one breakdown every three days happened in the electricity network of the old power system. “We have more or less finished building the parallel new power system, and customers can change to it for free. But as they have not been rushing to do so, we are essentially keeping both options open,” said Randna of the continued use of the less effective network, adding that electricity losses in the old power system network are larger.

Today 10,560 Elektrilevi customers still use the old power system in Tallinn, and preparations have been made for 60 per cent of them to change to the new power system. The speed and order of priority for installation of the new power system in the remaining buildings depend on how much the residents are interested in it. Connecting to the new power system is free, but the homeowners’ association or the building manager needs to make sure that the electricity system in the building complies with the current requirements. To change to the new power system or for additional information, contact any Eesti Energia customer service centre that provides services to Elektrilevi’s customers.

Kaarel Kutti
Elektrilevi, Communications Specialist
Tel: 55 54 1989