Power outage crisis: Five Australian states on alert for blackouts as electricity crisis deepens


Five Australian states now on alert for blackouts as electricity crisis deepens and crucial coal-fired power stations struggle to come back online

  • Up to 5 states could be impacted by possible blackouts as energy crisis worsens
  • Energy Australia’s Yallourn coal power station in Victoria loses half of capacity 
  • Electricity supply shortfalls forecast in Qld, NSW and Victoria Wednesday night 
  • Regulator intervenes amid claims power supply withheld to manipulate prices

Australia’s power outage crisis has spread nationwide, sparked by a major coal plant losing half its capacity.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has issued renewed warnings that up to five states could be impacted by blackouts in the coming days.

There are also fears power companies are withholding power to manipulate pricing, which has prompting the national regulator to intervene. 

Energy Australia’s Yallourn power station has lost capacity in two of its four units, sparking warnings of potential blackouts in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

The plant, which will close in 2028, currently provides 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity needs. 

Queensland and NSW residents are urged to restrict power use again on Wednesday  night with electricity supply shortfalls forecast for a third evening in a row as winter temperatures plummet.

A shortfall has also been forecast for Victoria on Wednesday night at around 6.30pm, 6pm in Queensland and 8pm in NSW. 

Millions of Australians across five states have been urged to conserve energy amid warnings of more blackouts in the coming days

Millions of Australians across five states have been urged to conserve energy amid warnings of more blackouts in the coming days

The AEMO is working with governments, industry and power generation owners to meet forecast electricity supply shortfalls.

The shortfalls are related to generators revising their market availability in response to administered wholesale electricity price caps ($300 megawatt hour), along with generation unavailability and higher commodity prices. 

‘Wholesale electricity prices are capped in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia, due to wholesale prices reaching the cumulative high price threshold,’ a AEMO statement read.

‘The price cap will remain until cumulative wholesale electricity prices fall below the cumulative price threshold.’

On the other side of the country, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has announced plans to close two coal-fired power stations in the next 10 years to make way for renewable energy.

The Yallourn coal power station (pictured), which provides one fifth of Victoria's power needs has lost capacity in two of its four units

The Yallourn coal power station (pictured), which provides one fifth of Victoria’s power needs has lost capacity in two of its four units

Officials believe almost 4000 megawatts of electricity supply is in reserve, prompting the Australian Energy Regulator to write to power companies and generators, The Australian reported.

‘Recently the AER has ­observed that following the application of administered pricing in the NEM, generators are withdrawing available capacity from the market,’ AER’s chair Clare Savage wrote.

‘This behaviour may be motivated by generators seeking to avoid the administered pricing compensation process in favour of the (AEMO) directions compensation process.’ 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will hold a cabinet meeting in Gladstone, Central Queensland on Wednesday, where the energy crisis is expected to be one of the major topics of discussion.

Federal energy minister Chris Bowen says steps have been taken to avoid any load-shedding or blackouts along the east coast and is confident major problems will be avoided.

‘It has required AEMO (the market operator) to direct generators to bid into the market to provide the energy system with electricity,’ he told reporters on Tuesday.

Millions of residents in Victoria, NSW and Queensland have been warned of possible power outrages on Wednesday night

Millions of residents in Victoria, NSW and Queensland have been warned of possible power outrages on Wednesday night

‘I do not believe there is a likely outcome at this point that there will be any requirement for load shedding, or indeed, as I said, for blackouts.’

He added there’s no need for people to turn off their heaters but suggested pulling the plug on non-essential appliances and devices.

‘I expect most of those things would have been turned off ­already because power bills are so high,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘So swimming pool filters, swimming pool heaters and outside lighting … There is a general request that the market is tight and if they can be turned off then that would be ­useful.’

The shortage of electricity comes amid soaring demand for gas and electricity and additional coal-fired power outages in Queensland. Pictured is a coal-fired station

The shortage of electricity comes amid soaring demand for gas and electricity and additional coal-fired power outages in Queensland. Pictured is a coal-fired station

WHY ARE POWER PRICES SOARING?

1. Coal-fired generators failing: More than 25 per cent have been offline for much of the year

2. Domestic gas shortages: Sources especially offshore in Victoria are running low and new development has been hindered

3. Ukraine-Russia war: European nations are moving away from Russian gas to punish Vladimir Putin, pushing up global prices

4. Cold snap: The cold snap in the east has led to increased demand

Source: Tony Wood, Grattan Institute

 

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