The chance of major summer blackouts has been cut as energy operators have found extra power for the east coast.
The n Energy Market Operator has added almost 2000 megawatts of additional power for the summer ahead, which it says will more than replace the 1600 megawatts taken offline after Victoria’s Hazelwood brown coal-fired power station closed in March.
The situation in Victoria was heightened by the recent failures of two generating units at the Loy Yang and Yallourn power stations, which removed a further 1300 megawatts of power from the state.
This drop in available coal-fired power forced Victoria to import large amounts of energy from South , Tasmania and NSW and burn more gas, contributing to recent spikes in the wholesale energy price.
AEMO has now secured additional power to plug these forecast energy holes, and prepared the National Electricity Market – comprising Tasmania, South , Victoria, Queensland, and NSW – for the summer ahead.
“AEMO is confident that we have taken all the necessary actions – and then some – to make sure we are ready,” AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said.
“We now have a range of dispatchable resources that can be used to strategically support the market as required, including battery storage, diesel generation and demand resources,” she said.
This extra power includes switching on three previously closed gas-fired power generators in South , Queensland and Tasmania, adding 833 MW of energy, as well as keeping diesel generators in South and Victoria prepared to meet increased demand.
More than 1000 megawatts of generation has been secured through demand response programs and the Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) mechanism, which encourage major power users to reduce their energy consumption during peak demand times.
Home consumers have also been encouraged to reduce their consumption, although AEMO expects demand to stay stable.
“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,” AEMO stated in its report.
Last summer the NEM saw the combination of exceedingly hot weather, power generator failures, and massive storms cause rolling power outages across the region, hitting its peak on February 11, 2017.
Transmission company TransGrid chief executive Paul Italiano said the power outages seen last February could have been worse in NSW.
“If February 11th was a weekday and not a Saturday, we would have seen massive blackouts affecting the state,” Mr Italiano told Fairfax Media.
He said TransGrid has prepared by ensuring network resilience on the supply side and will work with AEMO and the n Energy Regulator to provide power where it is needed. State of the states
The states are also taking actions to ensure the lights stay on.
New South Wales has created an energy security taskforce and enacted legislation to prepare the state for increased power demand.
It gives the NSW Premier wide-ranging ability to act quickly and declare a supply emergency, directing power where it is needed.
“By giving the Premier authority to declare an electricity supply emergency, it means we can immediately react, should we need to,” NSW energy minister Don Harwin said.
“Speed is key should the need arise. This move is just another step in ensuring we are as prepared as we can be for whatever summer might bring”.
“The reality is this legislation will only be implemented as a last resort at the time of an electricity emergency,” Mr Harwin added.
South has also had help from Tesla in managing its energy demand for the summer ahead.
Tesla has installed the world’s largest single battery unit in the state, and begun testing the system.
“The world’s largest lithium-ion battery will be an important part of our energy mix, ” South n premier Jay Weatherill said.
Tasmania is also investigating the potential of an additional energy pipeline connecting the island state to the mainland, allowing Tasmania to provide increased renewable energy to Victoria and the NEM. Power to the people
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a La Nina weather pattern for this summer, as opposed to the hotter, dry summer of last year.
This means an increased likelihood of heavy rain, floods, strong winds, and storms hitting the east coast.
The 2017/18 summer will still likely be the third warmest on record – behind the last two years – based on data that goes back to the 1880s.
However, the drier spring means much of the water will drain away, leaving the ground dry and vulnerable to bushfires.
This is creating a wide list of variables which networks will have to respond to in order to ensure the lights stay on.
However, it is not just AEMO’s preparation plans that matter ahead of summer.
The distribution and transmission networks have also been preparing for the seasons ahead.
Ausgrid chief executive Richard Gross said it is ready for what will be a summer of mixed weather conditions.
“Managing the risk of bushfires and storm activity is our current priority,” Mr Gross said.
Power can be interrupted by lightning strikes near our equipment, trees falling on powerlines or powerlines clashing in strong winds.”
Endeavour Energy, whose network covers 2.4 million people in Sydney’s west, the Blue Mountains, and Illawarra region, has invested more than $1.32 billion in ensuring its network has capacity, which was pushed to its limits last summer.
“Endeavour Energy’s record peak load was 4,084 MW on 30 January 2017 as Western Sydney sweltered in 43 Celsius plus temperatures,” an Endeavour Energy spokeswoman said.
“This compares to our average load on a hot summer’s day of 3,400 MW.”
Much of this is driven by increased air conditioning usage in Western Sydney.
Essential Energy, who provides power to more than 800,000 homes across regional and rural NSW, said it also includes additional load factors caused by tourism-related population growth expected in the summer season.
“Robust planning and load forecasting procedures are in place to identify emerging network constraints that may be impacted by the higher demand for electricity experienced over summer and winter periods,” an Essential Energy spokeswoman said.