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Australia not at risk of summer blackouts in 2017/18 – AEMO says businesses can keep their air conditioning on

Australian businesses can breathe a sigh of relief after being told by AEMO that they will be able to keep their air conditioning units without fears of summer blackouts after energy operators announced that they have found extra energy output to cover shortfalls.

Audrey Zibelman
AEMO Chief Audrey Zibelman

Australian Energy Market Operator Chief Audrey Zibelman said that AEMO had identified close to 2,000MW of power to make up for the 1,600 MW that was lost when the plug was pulled on Victoria’s ageing and dirty Hazelwood coal-fired plant in March 2016.

The findings were outlined in AEMO’s Summer Readiness Report 2017-2018.

“I am absolutely confident that AEMO has put together an incredibly comprehensive and robust plan, and that we’ve taken all the right actions and we are in as good a position as one could be going into a summer,”  Ms Zibelman said.


Summer blackouts concerns offset by extra energy generation and capacity – AEMO

The collapse of distribution towers in the 2016 September storms caused wind turbines’ safety mechanisms to trip, leading to a statewide blackout in South Australia

Referring to the 2016 statewide blackout in South Australia, when the entire network dropped after distribution towers collapsed, causing a surge in output at windfarms which made failsafe systems trip early, Ms Zibelman said: “Clearly, given the events of last summer there is heightened awareness and heightened anxiety. We all need to calm down.”

Australia has seen a surge in investment in renewables, but this presents management challenges, given that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. When these sources are offline, an inertia problem is created… think of it as the time it takes to fire up a turbine to get to full speed while trying to compensate for a drop in output. It’s sort of like trying to cycle up a very steep hill in the lowest gear until you get momentum going.

AEMO has changed its tune since that summer, which was the first in eight years where power failures were registered in Australia’s eastern states. AEMO predicted that the situation was quite dire and bound to get worse with the mothballing of Hazelwood.

South Australia’s new Tesla battery a gamechanger in summer blackouts worries

But things have turned around. The biggest game changer was the record-breaking installation time of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery by Elon Musk’s Tesla, which will store and distribute 100 MW worth of power generated by Neoen’s wind farm in Hornsdale, not far from the battery site in Jamestown.

The battery will be switched on this week and will be fully operational by 1 December.

Other measures to secure energy supply include the re-starting of three decommissioned gas-fired plants in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania to add a further 833MW of capacity.

On the demand reduction side of things, an AEMO programme to financially compensate big power users in the business and industry sector, coupled with extra output from state-owned diesel generators in South Australia and Victoria making a further 1,150 MW of power available.

AEMO study finds that most energy users not willing to turn off their air conditioning units

Studies have shown that consumers on a broad spectrum are not likely to cut their power use during heatwaves, so the extra capacity is essential.

According to an AEMO summer operations report, the situation is as follows: “The latest trends suggested consumers wouldn’t change their behaviour to reduce their energy use, and therefore their demand from the grid, by as much as we had thought.”

Energy transmission network owners have also told the AEMO they are on track to clear vegetation and make sure their poles and wires are free from summer bushfire risk.

Consumers will be able to keep track of the national energy picture through extreme heat days on AEMO’s ENERGYLive website and social media channels.

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