Plans in place to prevent summer blackouts

As Australia braces for bushfires and heatwaves, backup energy reserves are being sourced to prevent summer blackouts in Victoria and South Australia.

In its summer readiness plan released on Friday, the Australian Energy Market Operator flags the risk extreme temperatures and extended heatwaves will have on electricity supply.

Peak use is expected to reach near record levels on both the east and west coasts of Australia, it says.

AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman says there’s a heightened risk of customers having their power supply cut off in Victoria and South Australia unless there are backup measures.

“The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a hotter and drier summer which, coupled with other risks we have identified, suggest we have a challenging summer awaiting us,” she said.

“AEMO is confident the plans we have made and the targeted actions we have taken in collaboration with the wider energy industry and governments, have appropriately equipped us to tackle any unforeseeable events the upcoming summer might bring.”

A lack of rainfall could result in insufficient water to cool generators in Latrobe Valley, which AEMO says will hurt Victoria’s electricity supply.

The agency is working to ensure enough energy reserves are on hand in summer to prevent blackouts.

Increased wind and solar generation will be added to Victoria’s supply, supported by two new batteries for storage in Ballarat and Gannawarra.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the risks facing the electricity market in the hotter months show how important it is to focus on reliability.

“The levels of intermittent government-backed generation in South Australia and Victoria, that has not been firmed, has led to a real risk over summer,” he said.

“With a tough summer approaching, Australian families and businesses would expect all states and territories to endorse strong measures to improve reliability.”

Maximum electricity demand is expected later in the day this summer compared to last year, with more Australian households installing solar panels and generating their own power during the day.

Last summer, peak demand in South Australia was at 8pm due to its record levels of household solar in the country.

Gas supplies are expected to meet forecasted demands, AEMO says.