19 January, 2018

Luke Griffiths

Courtesy of the Australian 

 

A heatwave gripping southern Australia is putting so much strain on the national power grid, some Victorian hospitals have been forced to issue a “Code Yellow” alert amid fears of blackouts.

Victoria’s Department of Health has warned all Melbourne hospitals to check their emergency generators are working in case they lose power this afternoon to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

A Department spokesman confirmed all Melbourne hospitals were asked to check emergency and back-up power supplies, in case there was a power outage.

Some hospitals were forced to issue a “Code Yellow” alert, which means that health services may be required to conserve energy by turning off non-essential lights and equipment.

Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital has powered down lights in the corridors and turned off non-essential electrical equipment in a bid to conserve energy.

A spokeswoman for SA Health said regular testing of back-up systems was standard procedure and no specific memo was issued this week.

It comes as a number of Victorian and South Australian companies are being paid to reduce their energy consumption this afternoon as soaring temperatures put extreme pressure on the national electricity market.

The move by the Australian Energy Market Operator came as rising demand pushed the wholesale spot price past $10,000/MWh in Victoria and $13,000/MWh in South Australia as people sought refuge from temperatures that exceeded 40C in both states.

An AEMO spokesman confirmed that its “demand response” measures had been enacted in Victoria and South Australia, a process that sees companies such as Bluescope Steel and Visy enter into agreements to use less power in an effort to secure the wider electricity grid.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said today’s extreme weather conditions have been planned for, with a focus on ensuring an “operating buffer” to manage unforeseen incidents across the system.

“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.

Nathan Vass from the Australian Power Project said micromanagement of the electricity market was far from ideal.

“But it will become all too common if governments and regulators fail to acknowledge that new baseload generators need to be built to replace ageing assets,” he told The Australian.

“My view is we need to replace like-for-like, and new high efficiency low emission power stations would ensure lower average wholesale power prices, reduce the need for big industrial users to cut production, and help meet emissions goals.”

Earlier today, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said there needed got to be “sufficient security of supply, dispatchability power, power on demand that can meet these very hot summer days”.

The Institute of Public Affairs’ Daniel Wild said “the reason why so many people can escape the blistering heat today with air-conditioning is coal and gas”.

“Governments should be technologically-neutral when it comes to energy generation. But they have consistently subsided wind at the expense of coal, resulting in high prices and less reliable energy supply,” he said.

South Australian Energy Minister said the state-owned diesel generator “can step in quickly and respond within minutes and we have a battery that can step in within seconds” if required.

“The Tesla battery has been dispatched dozens of times so far this summer to stabilise the national grid, and was used recently by the national operator to stabilise Victoria’s grid when a major coal-fired power station went offline,” he said.

“In fact, so far this summer there have been fewer lack of reserve warnings for South Australia than for either NSW or Victoria – which means our power supply has been more reliable than the coal-reliant grids in the eastern states.”