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Australia Hot summer forecast could lead to blackouts in Victoria, energy operator warns

15:55  03 december  2019
15:55  03 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Victoria and South Australia are more likely to experience disruptions to power supply than NSW, which is within the energy market operator ’s range of acceptable risk. RFS firefighters tackle a fire at Bombay, NSW. The market operator has warned of blackout risks during a forecast hot summer .

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has warned Victoria will be in a desperate situation since if it faces an extreme summer . The Hazelwood power plant closure has resulted in a tight supply and demand balance in the national electricity market. The worst case scenario will include

a close up of a map: From December until the end of February, most of Australia is forecast to have a high chance of experiencing warmer than average maximum temperatures. (Supplied: AEMO)© Provided by ABC Business From December until the end of February, most of Australia is forecast to have a high chance of experiencing warmer than average maximum temperatures. (Supplied: AEMO)

Extreme weather forecast for summer will reduce the reliability of power supply across Australia in the coming months, with ageing coal plants becoming less reliable, the energy market operator has warned.

In August, Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said a worst-case scenario could see up to 1.3 million Victorian households without power on extreme weather days if supply was not improved and major generators were not repaired.

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The Australian Energy Market Operator will rely on big energy consuming businesses cutting back Rising fears of summer blackouts in Victoria have spurred a fresh push from the national energy market operator to “The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a hotter and drier summer which

Up to 1.3 million Victorian households could be without power for up to four hours in a heatwave this summer . Failures at AGL Energy 's Loy Yang coal power plant and at an Origin Energy gas plant in Victoria pose a "significant risk" of blackouts of up to four hours if repairs last longer than their

That risk remains.

But the operator said a boom in rooftop and grid-scale solar generation in the past year had created the bulk of an extra 3,700 megawatts of generation in national energy market.

The AEMO summer-readiness plan showed that Victoria remained the state at the highest risk of power outages due to faults at a coal plant in the Latrobe Valley and a gas plant in the west of the state.

The operator also warned that increased dust storms from the drought in New South Wales and Queensland was a risk to solar panels.

In Victoria's east, a coal unit at Loy Yang in Gippsland is still not fixed, but AGL said it would be back online by mid-December.

Meanwhile, a gas plant in the west of the state is not due to be operational until the end of the year.

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The Australian Energy Market Operator has highlighted valuable lessons and challenges identified following the blackout of September 28, which cut power to 850,000 customers in South Australia. The operator says all the recommendations will be implemented by December.

Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said Victorian summers were getting hotter and longer because of "We know that we’ve got ageing brown coal generators here in Victoria and they are actually In the mid-afternoon the operator forecast a potential blackout around midday Friday unless it is able

In an effort to reduce risk, AEMO and Victoria have secured 125 megawatts of extra reserves.

As part of this backup power plan, big energy users, including recycling company Visy, agree to reduce usage on extreme temperature days.

Other states also run the risk of unplanned blackouts because of the increased heatwaves and bushfires.

"In any region, the actual occurrence of load shedding [planned power outage] could be higher than forecast … given particular combinations of weather events, plant outages, or bushfires,'' the report said.

When supplies are stretched, AEMO may direct power networks to cut power to customers, which is called load shedding.

Networks may also have to shut down areas if the infrastructure cannot handle the demand from homes and businesses.

The industry said it was working hard to meet demand.

"Losing power, even for short periods during a heatwave, can cause real inconvenience," Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara said.

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Alternative energy sources like solar and wind, were touted as global salvation for cheap energy . Solar power is causing damage to California’s electrical grid and could lead to blackouts this Grid operators say this damaged the power grid, and the system will be incredibly vulnerable to damage

Victoria 's firefighting fleet was reduced on Monday after a water-bombing helicopter fighting fires in Gippsland crashed into a dam. The helicopter is one of two such aircranes in Victoria , and were both grounded to conduct safety checks. The aircraft were approved to fly again on Tuesday afternoon.

"But electricity providers will continue to do everything possible to avoid that occurring.

"We are working with AEMO to have sufficient supply available for the hotter periods."

Rooftop boom, coal ageing

The spread of rooftop solar, the report said, had boosted capacity and meant that the peak for demand on hot days was occurring later in the day once the sun sets.

Drought could also limit the effectiveness of hydro-electricity generation.

The summer-readiness plan has also highlighted how ageing coal plants continue to be less reliable especially during extreme weather and drier conditions.

"These risks add to the deteriorating reliability of some of the older coal generation plants," AEMO's chief executive officer Audrey Zibelman said.

"Whilst unexpected events can and do happen, particularly when the power system is under significant pressure and most prone to failure, AEMO has worked diligently to prepare the power system appropriately, including the procurement of emergency resources."

Improvements to transmission also remain key, with the current network restricting the distribution of some new energy generation.

The market operator has also secured secondary backup supplies through short and medium term agreements with business to power down — but they are only paid if they do reduce use.

Heatwave conditions continue for second week of summer .
Extreme heat is expected to impact several states and territories this week, challenging December records and aggravating fire danger ratings.Severe heatwave conditions are forecast to affect parts of NSW and Western Australia between Monday and Friday while a low-intensity heatwave will bring a stream of stinking hot days to Queensland, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

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