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Power generator maintenance banned, mothballed plants forced open to save summer power supply

Power generator maintenance banned, mothballed plants forced open to save summer power supply

By Rob Harris, National politics reporter

Victorian power generators will be banned from undertaking summer maintenance and any “mothballed” plants will be forced into operation from October in a bid to head off widespread blackouts next summer.

The Australian Energy Market Operator will attempt to shore up electricity supply, amid fears both Victoria and South Australia are at risk of damaging blackouts this summer because of the closure of the Hazelwood power station.

The body responsible for operating Australia’s largest gas and electricity markets has warned if two or more states face high-temperature days at the same time next summer, then the ability for one state to draw on the other’s supply would be drastically reduced.

An independent review of Australia’s energy security, chaired by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, has revealed that AEMO will work for the first time with the Bureau of Meteorology to improve ¬demand forecasting.

The Finkel report, released on Friday, said the key problem was the lack of any new generating ¬capacity that was capable of being dispatched rapidly.

Current demand forecasts are provided by two external bodies — neither of which is the bureau.

The Finkel report said the key problem was the lack of any new generating capacity that was capable of being dispatched rapidly — such as gas, hydro or coal.

“The past few years has seen the retirement of significant coal-fired capacity from the National Electricity Market while there has been no corresponding reinvestment in new dispatchable capac¬ity,” it said.

The report warned the renewable energy target had provided an incentive for wind power — but it was not available on-call ahead of peak demand.

“If new dispatchable capacity is not brought forward soon, the reliability of the National Electric¬ity Market will be compromised,” it said.

AEMO has been urged to worked retain a strat¬egic reserve of electricity capacity, which would be held outside the market but could be drawn on in times of emergency when reli¬a¬bility standards are breached.

Severe heatwave conditions in southeast Australia in February this year highlighted the challenges of maintaining electricity supply during extreme weather conditions.

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has disputed that the state would experience any interruption of supply.

AEMO forecasted a potential energy shortfall in during the upcoming summer and will also use its emergency powers to offer to pay big industrial energy users to shut down during heatwaves.

The move could free up 600 megawatts of energy from early January to the start of March.

Herald Sun

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