Record temperatures in Australia stretch energy systems to limit

Record temperatures in Australia have put strain on energy systems and pushed the electricity supply to the limit in some regions, the Australian Energy Council explains.

Heat wave conditions in Victoria and interventions by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) have reinforced the need for stabilising policy in the energy market, the council said.

The Australian Energy Council’s chief executive Sarah McNamara said that all parts of the energy system are put under stress during extended periods of high temperatures.

“This is probably the biggest test we’ve had since the Hazelwood and Northern power stations closed, and it highlights the fact that we could use more reliable supply in the market.

READ: Potential impacts on the energy system during heatwave explained

“A significant amount of preparation went into planning for this summer. Generators and the market operator should be congratulated for doing everything they can to avoid power blackouts,” she said.

Record temperatures in South Australia followed by heatwave conditions in Victoria, in late January, stretched the system to its limits and required AEMO to step in to maintain electricity supply, said McNamara.

“This is not the way a 21st century grid should operate.

“But the situation we are in could have been avoided. The fact is that, without a national climate and energy policy, such as the National Energy Guarantee, would-be investors can’t make investment decisions to build replacement generation.

“We need a guiding policy to provide that investor confidence, so we can ensure that we have enough generation ready to go when it’s most needed. The NEG remains the best option for this purpose and a viable way forward,” she said.

The Australian Energy Council represents 23 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in competitive wholesale and retail energy markets.

These businesses collectively generate the overwhelming majority of electricity in Australia and sell gas and electricity to over 10 million homes and businesses.