Blackout is a 2012 novel which presents a frighteningly plausible depiction of what happens when a national power system fails. In this case, the whole of Europe and parts of North America is plunged into darkness for several weeks. As the author, Marc Elsberg, explains in a TEDx talk, first the lights and electronics turn off. The internet and telephone lines don’t work and the cellphone networks are largely down. Of course, electronic banking is no longer an option and pretty much all industrial processes grind to a halt. Because petrol and diesel is largely pumped with the use of electricity, fuel tanks can’t be refilled, and distribution networks largely stall. Water systems, reliant on power to pump and distribute water, stop working. And sewerage plants also fail. Then, the looting starts. Although Blackout is a work of fiction set in a location thousands of kilometres away, the scenario Elsberg maps out hits close to home as SA grapples with a worsening power crisis. Power gr...

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