The lights may go out for millions of Australians this summer after a dire warning from energy chiefs about the reliability of the nation’s power supplies.
Victoria and South Australia could face blackouts this year if the power runs out because of a lack of renewable energy and rundown coal-fired power stations.
Rolling blackouts could then hit New South Wales in 2025 and Queensland in 2029, according to a new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator.
The power regulator released its 10-year reliability report into the National Electricity Market on Thursday, delivering a chilling warning about the nation’s switch from coal.
It’s called for urgent new investment into renewables to fill the gap being created by the planned closure of coal-fired power stations, or face the risk of outages.
It’s concerned that current renewable projects under construction have stalled or are delayed, which could create peak-demand power shortages when air conditioners work overtime to cope with the predicted summer heat.
The AEMO has now called for more spending on renewables, storage, generation and transmission to meet the nation’s needs before the grid is thrown into crisis.
The lights may go out for millions of Australians after a dire warning from energy chiefs about the reliability of the nation’s power supplies
Victoria and South Australia could face blackouts this year if the power runs out because of a lack of renewable energy and rundown coal-fired power stations
‘This coming summer does see an elevated level of risk, in particular in Victoria and in South Australia,’ AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman revealed.
‘That is due to a hot and dry summer that’s been forecast in contrast to the relatively cool and wet summers that we’ve seen for the last couple of years.’
He said the government and the power industry were working together to mitigate the risks and were in the process of putting plans in place to limit the impact.
But he admitted: ‘A level of risk does still exist.
‘This year’s report highlights the pace of Australia’s energy transition and the urgency needed to deliver new investment to ensure reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for consumers.
‘Over the 10-year outlook, we continue to forecast reliability gaps, which are mostly due to the expectation that 62 per cent of today’s coal fleet will retire by 2033.
‘To ensure Australian consumers continue to have access to reliable electricity supplies, it’s critical that planned investments in transmission, generation and storage projects are urgently delivered.’
The problem has been exacerbated by some coal-fired power stations being taken out of service by faults as they come to the end of their working life, amid weathermen’s warnings of a blistering hot summer with little wind ahead.
‘We’re expecting an elevated level of risk compared to recent years, mostly due to hotter and drier conditions, and coal-fired generation reliability is at historic lows,’ Mr Westerman said.
‘The entire industry is focused on managing the risks in the summer ahead, particularly during high-demand periods coupled with generation outages and low renewable output, but some risk will remain.’
He added: ‘Plans do exist as well.
‘And those plans, delivered effectively, for new generation and storage to backup that new renewable energy, do have the potential to mitigate those reliability risks for the entire 10-year outlook. ‘
Shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien slammed the government for its ‘radical experiment’ of replacing fossil fuel power in the grid with renewable energy.
‘Australia is now paying some of the highest prices for electricity in the world,’ he said.
‘But they have no guarantee that when they flip the switch at home, lights will even come on.
‘This is the risk we are now in, and this is a direct consequence of the policy suite of the Labour government.
‘This is a radical experiment with Australia’s energy system under the Labour government, and it is turning bad.’
Federal energy minister Chis Bowen insisted the risk was minimal and was equal only to one eight-hour outage in five years.
He said the state and federal government were collaborating with the industry to minimise the possible impact.
The AEMO called for urgent new investment into renewables to fill the gap being created by the planned closure of coal-fired power stations, or face the risk of outages
The problem has been exacerbated by some coal-fired power stations being taken out of service by faults as they come to the end of their working life, amid weathermen’s warnings of a blistering hot summer ahead
‘All the governments are working together with AEMO to make sure that our grid is as stable as it possibly can be going into what will be a very hot summer,’ he said.
The warnings come as the cost of the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project was predicted to soar to $ 12 billion or more, according to reports on Tuesday.
The major energy project, which was announced under former coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017, is expected to play a key role in Australia’s clean energy transition.
High construction costs and other challenges have already pushed back the 2021 completion date and blown out the $2 billion original estimate of the project’s cost.
Snowy Hydro 2.0 will connect two dams in southern NSW via almost 30km of tunnels and a new underground power station.
The project is intended to operate as a massive battery by using excess wind and solar energy to pump water uphill before releasing it during peak periods to provide power to the national electricity grid.
The project plays a key role in the government’s ambition to make the electricity grid 82 per cent renewable by 2030.
‘It’s a big lift, but it’s achievable as well,’ energy minister Chris Bowen added.
‘We’re providing the support to get the renewable energy around the grid.’