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Sydney braces for blackouts as heatwave stokes Australia energy row

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Australia's capital and its most populous state, New South Wales, face power outages on Friday with the mercury set to soar above 40 deg C, just days after 40,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the state of South Australia.

[MELBOURNE] Australia's capital and its most populous state, New South Wales, face power outages on Friday with the mercury set to soar above 40 deg C, just days after 40,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the state of South Australia.

Australia's energy market operator said power supply conditions were expected to be tight "which may trigger the need for localised load shedding ... to protect the region's electricity network from long term and/or prolonged damage."

The market operator had to shed load in South Australia, which depends on wind for more than a third of its power supply, on Wednesday evening as temperatures soared and the wind died down just as people were cranking up air conditioners at home.

That was the latest in a string of power disruptions and electricity price spikes that has hit South Australia, including a state-wide blackout that forced copper mines, smelters and a steel plant to shut for up to two weeks last September.

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The problems have sparked a review of the national electricity market and energy policy on how to cope with rapid growth of wind and solar power and the closure of coal-fired power plants that have been essential for steady supply.

The issues have deepened the divide between Australia's Liberal conservatives, who want to preserve jobs in the coal industry, and Labor, looking to promote more aggressive adoption of green energy to help cut carbon emissions.

The New South Wales government has been given a range of options on which customers will face managed power cuts amid a potential shortage of power supply on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Australian Energy Market Operator said.

REUTERS

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