Australia

Queensland hit with second blackout warning as energy crisis continues to grip east coast

Australia’s peak energy regulator has warned of supply shortfalls that could cause blackouts in Queensland and NSW on Tuesday evening.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AMEO) said on Tuesday that NSW and households and businesses in Queensland’s southeast and coastal areas could face blackouts between 5.30pm and 9pm.
AMEO has asked generators to supply more electricity, saying it will order them to do so if needed. In Queensland, it would be the second consecutive night generators have been issued this directive after they , which averted a blackout.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean is confident the state can avoid blackouts after meeting with AMEO boss Danny Westman on Tuesday morning. Mr Kean said he was told that there was enough power available “to ensure system reliability”, although the sector is facing “huge challenges”.

In Queensland, Transmission company Powerlink’s Chief Executive Paul Simshauser says people should “be a bit thoughtful” and reduce their energy use on Tuesday night.

“If you’ve got your air conditioner on … just make sure it’s not set to blast furnace mode,” he told ABC Radio.
Queensland has been facing a supply crunch since Sunday when electricity generators stopped offering to supply power after AEMO capped skyrocketing wholesale electricity prices.
Supplies are low in Queensland even though there is “sufficient physical generation capacity” in the state, AMEO said.
Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni says he doesn’t need to intervene because AEMO is taking care of the situation.
“This is a system design that is doing its job at the moment, which means power stays on, we’ve got adequate supply,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
AMEO on Tuesday also issued a “lack of reserve” warning for Wednesday evening in Victoria, meaning the forecast demand was likely to outstrip supply.

It said outages could be expected between 6pm and 7.30pm.

‘We will be in for a bumpy period’

Federal energy minister Chris Bowen believes further blackouts and load shedding can be avoided, while households and businesses in NSW and Queensland remain on alert
But while shortfalls in energy supply have eased overnight, Mr Bowen said there would still be a difficult period over the winter months.
Power availability in both states was threatened on Monday after wholesale electricity prices spiked, causing the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to trigger a $300 per megawatt-hour price cap on wholesale electricity.

As a result, some generator companies pulled back from the market forcing the AEMO, which manages electricity and gas systems and markets across Australia, to intervene and require generators to supply power even if it was not profitable.

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Mr Bowen said the market operator was still closely monitoring electricity supply reserve conditions.
“We will be in for a bumpy period, there is no doubt about that,” he told the Seven Network on Tuesday.
“We are working very hard to avoid any blackouts and load shedding, we have done that so far.”

Outages at coal-fired power plants, at the same time as household heating is in high demand, are putting pressure on the electricity system.

While there is high demand for power, Mr Bowen said people did not have to go without during the cold period.
“Nobody is being asked to turn off anything that they need … certainly nobody should be turning the heating off or anything that’s essential,” he told ABC radio.
With some coal plants still offline, Mr Bowen said he expected the market operator to intervene if required to keep the power running.
“Coal-fired power is really under huge pressure at the moment … and that has led to some of the pressure on the system,” he said.
“This is a cycle of events, some of which are predictable. We know some of the outages that are coming. Some of them are unpredictable, particularly with an ageing fleet.”

The energy minister said everything was on the table in terms of reform in the sector.

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However, Mr Bowen admitted there would not be an easy solution.
“This is not a short-term fix. There’s no legislative basis at the moment, we would need to look very carefully,” he said.
“While this is a very serious situation, we’ll deal with it calmly and methodically.”
Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten said the power situation on Australia’s east coast was “not good”.
“The problem we have got right now is because of the very cold weather,” he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

“You need what’s called dispatchable power. That’s power that you don’t (generally) need … but when it’s really cold, that’s when you need it.”

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