NSW faces blackouts as heatwave causes crisis

As the country swelters through a heatwave, thousands of New South Wales homes are expected to be left without power this afternoon as pressure is put on the grid.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has warned of a looming power shortage between 3-5.30pm as heatwave conditions cause demand to far outstrip supply.

AEMO said the state faced a shortfall of 419 megawatts of power, even after importing large amounts of electricity from neighbouring Victoria and Queensland.

Unless additional generating capacity can be found, AEMO may be forced to repeat the load shedding order that saw 90,000 homes in South Australia have their power supplies cut earlier this week.

“If consumers can safely reduce their electricity consumption during periods of high demand, this can ease the supply/demand balance and can mitigate the need for load shedding,” AEMO said in a statement.

The Australian Energy Council’s chief executive Matthew Warren said the industry will be doing everything it can to ensure that power supply is maintained.

“Blackouts can occur if there isn’t enough supply to meet record electricity demand levels. They can also occur as the result isolated faults caused by the extreme conditions,” he said.

“Losing power even for short periods during a heatwave can cause real discomfort.”

Electricity demand has historically been highest on weekdays and usually at the end of a run of three or more hot days.

The record peak demand in NSW was 14,764 MW set in 2010-2011.

AEMO has forecast demand could reach that level between 4.30-6.30pm.

“Even with more solar panels around now, the increased demand from population growth and more widespread use of air-conditioners means record electricity demand is a possibility,” Mr Warren said.

Households have been urged to reduce their power usage this afternoon.

The Electrical Trades Union has put the blame on the NSW Liberals and National, highlighting the case of Wallerawang power station, near Lithgow, which was previously capable of producing 1000MW of baseload power, but was closed down shortly after being purchased by Chinese-owned company Energy Australia.

“One of the first actions of these new private owners was to close Wallerawang, resulting in a substantial reduction to available electricity supplies and severely limiting the state’s ability to meet peak demand,” deputy secretary Dave McKinley said.

“If Wallerawang was still operating today, we would not be facing the load shedding and forced power blackouts that the national energy market operator is forecasting.”

February 10, 2017

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