Home General News Five states face a power crisis within hours

Five states face a power crisis within hours

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

The federal government is optimistic that power outages can be avoided, even as millions of Australians in five states face predicted potential power shortages within hours.

Households and businesses in New South Wales and southeastern and coastal Queensland were again asked to save electricity on Tuesday amid warnings of possible blackouts from 5 pm to 9 pm.

Queensland is expected to be without power from 4:30 pm to midnight and 5:00 pm to midnight.

Potential power cuts are also forecast for Tasmania and South Australia between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had previously issued Victoria a “blackout” warning but canceled the alarm at 4 pm Tuesday after asking for a market response.

Five states face a power crisis within hours

AEMO said Tuesday it had re-enforced price caps in NSW and Queensland and extended them to Victoria and South Australia.

Energy Secretary Chris Bowen said further outages and outages could be avoided, although he predicted a difficult winter.

“We are going to have a bumpy period, there is no doubt about it,” he told Seven Network on Tuesday.

“We are working hard to prevent blackouts and load shedding, which we have done so far.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese firmly blamed the energy crisis on the east coast on the previous government, criticizing the coalition’s ‘inactivity’.

He said that AEMO would intervene as much as necessary to keep the system functioning during the winter, but the problems had been going on for some time.

“You’ve had a decade of neglect where we have an energy grid that’s not fit for the purpose of the 21st century,” he said in Brisbane.

“What we’re seeing is that the ramifications of the former government’s failure to implement energy policies are now being felt with problems in the market because that assurance was not available.”

AEMO has asked generators to supply more power and will instruct them to do so if necessary. It is the second night in a row that AEMO has sent generators to turn on power plants to maintain supplies.

AEMO has also enforced price caps along the east coast.

“This is due to wholesale electricity prices having reached the cumulative high price threshold, creating a $300 megawatt-hour price cap under the National Electricity Law and the National Electricity Rules,” it said.

Paul Simshauser, CEO of transmission company Powerlink, said people should “be a little considerate” and reduce energy consumption Tuesday night.

“If you have your air conditioner on… make sure it’s not on blast furnace mode,” he told ABC Radio.

Queensland and NSW had dealt with energy crises since Sunday when electricity generators stopped providing power after AEMO capped wholesale electricity prices.

AEMO said inventories remained low despite “sufficient physical generation capacity” in both states.

“As a result” [of the cap], some generators have revised their market availability in NSW and Queensland for today,” it said.

“This has helped predict supply shortages while production units are offline for scheduled maintenance and repairs.”

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said he did not need to intervene because AEMO handled the situation.

“This is a system design that is doing its job at the moment, meaning the power stays on, we have plenty of supply,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

He blames the electricity crisis on higher demand due to the cold weather, high gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine, and maintenance shutdowns at government-owned coal-fired power plants.

Some of those plants will start generating electricity again on Thursday, Mr. De Brenni said. Some will be out of action until April next year.

Wholesale electricity prices are set by the highest bidder in Queensland, and 83 percent of the power comes from coal and gas plants.

Household electricity bills in Queensland are set to rise by at least $43 per month from July. Analysts predict they will rise again before mid-2023 if wholesale prices continue to climb to record levels.

In NSW, Treasurer and Energy Secretary, Matt Kean said there was ample spare capacity but did not specify how much and how long it would last if the cold spell persisted.

“There are huge challenges in the energy sector right now,” he said Tuesday.

“Obviously, there isn’t a lot of slack in the system, but the market operator that manages the system is directing our factory to ensure we don’t have any outages at this stage.”

Mr. Bowen said he expected the market participant to intervene if necessary to keep the flow going.

“Coal-fired power is really under tremendous pressure right now… and that has put some of the strain on the system,” he said.

“This is a cycle of events, some of which are predictable. We know some of the glitches that are coming. Some are unpredictable, especially with an aging fleet.”

Bowen said Australians can expect a “bumpy winter,” but people won’t have to turn off their heating.

“Nobody asks,” he said.

But he suggested Australians look into turning off equipment such as pool heating and outdoor lighting.

He said everything was on the table regarding reforms in the sector, although there was no easy solution.

“This is not a short-term solution. There is no legal basis at the moment; we would have to look very closely,” he said.

“Although this situation is very serious, we will deal calmly and methodically.”

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