18 January, 2018
Michael Owen and Luke Griffiths
Courtesy of the Australian
A hot spell in South Australia in which metropolitan temperatures will soar above 40C until the weekend has left the state reliant on a fleet of diesel generators to prevent blackouts amid warnings from the market operator of a power supply shortfall tonight.
The severe conditions will be the first major test of the state’s reconfigured power network since a statewide blackout in September 2016 forced the Weatherill government to implement its own $550 million self-sufficient energy plan last year.
The Weatherill government’s ideological opposition to coal-fired power and its reliance on renewable energy has sparked furious political debate during the past 18 months.
Last night, a spokesman for the Australian Energy Market Operator said the state was at greatest risk of a blackout tonight between 5.30pm and 6.30pm, when a potential shortfall in reserve capacity was forecast.
AEMO expects the electricity reserve — the amount above forecast demand — will be 575 megawatts, below the 600 megawatts of contingency power the operator requires.
“AEMO is continuing to work with industry and governments as the extreme high temperatures continue to put the energy system to the test,” the spokesman told The Australian.
“We are monitoring the reserve levels to maintain adequate supply and we are quietly confident that supply will be met … with the exception of an unplanned major event, such as bushfire.”
South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis yesterday said that, if required, he would use the state’s recently installed diesel generators and exercise new powers of direction over the market to ensure no blackouts.
“Since we invested in our own generation … we are much more residual, much more strengthened and the grid is much more resistant for these types of shock,” he said.
“In terms of the capacity of supply, we’ll be fine.”
But energy expert Nathan Vass, chief executive of the Australian Power Project, said yesterday that demand was already outstripping supply, with very little wind generation, resulting in a massive amount of imported energy from Victoria’s coal-fired power stations.
“But that comes at a cost — the spot price (in SA) is also around 19 per cent higher than the next nearest state, Victoria, which is also importing from NSW,” Mr Vass said.
Joe Schinella, owner of Schinella’s fresh produce store in Adelaide, spent $50,000 on a large-scale diesel generator last year after losing confidence in the state’s power supply.
“With our fresh produce and an on-site butcher, deli and bakery, we just can’t afford to have outages,” he said.
The Bureau of Meteorology said Adelaide could expect tops of 41C today and tomorrow.
NSW: Fire bans
NSW residents have been warned to prepare for severe heatwave conditions in the coming days.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned of extremely hot conditions across much of the state from Friday to Sunday, and severe fire danger warnings have been issued for several regions including Sydney.
Temperatures are set to soar in western NSW on Thursday with Wentworth reaching 42C and Broken Hill reaching 41C.
But the real heat is set to hit on Friday and on the weekend as much of the state swelters in temperatures in the high 30s, with parts of NSW reaching the mid-40s, Mr How said on Wednesday.
On Saturday the mercury is forecast to reach 45C at Hay and Ivanhoe in western NSW and 43C in Penrith in western Sydney.
Ivanhoe will again swelter on Sunday with temperatures rising to 46C while Scone in the Hunter region reaches 44C.
“Particularly Sydney is going to see some very hot temperatures in the western suburbs,” Mr How said.
“Penrith and Richmond have already seen eight days above 40C so far this summer so they’re well on the way to beating the all-time record of 12 days over 40C.”
The NSW Rural Fire Service has issued a severe fire danger warning for Sydney, the central ranges, northwestern NSW, the Illawarra, the Hunter and the southern and northern slopes on Thursday.
“The forecast heatwave will elevate the risk of fire and total fire bans are likely to be declared for some areas, so I urge landholders, homeowners, businesses and holidaymakers to consider how they will be impacted and begin making their preparations today,” NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said in a statement.
VICTORIA: Severe warnings
Total fire bans and severe warnings have been declared for large parts of Victoria with the state set to sizzle as temperatures heat up to 40C plus. Temperatures in Melbourne are expected to climb to 38C and 39C on Thursday and Friday respectively, the Bureau of Meteoreology has said.
“For Melbourne we are expecting a run of over 38C over two days,” forecaster Jonathan How said.
He said while it would be a hot burst it wasn’t unprecedented. “The last time this happened was in 2015 so for many people it will be a bit of a shock because we haven’t had these conditions in over three years,” Mr How said.
But it’s not as bad as 110 years ago when temperatures in Victoria were more than 38C for six days in a row.
Total fire bans have been declared for Thursday in several parts of the state including the Mallee, Wimmera, South West, Central and North Central areas. People living in these areas have been advised by the Country Fire Authority to activate their bush fire plan and to be aware of conditions. Health warnings have also been issued across the state warning people of the dangers of heat stroke and heat stress because of the extreme conditions predicted for Thursday and Friday.
Those thinking of venturing into national parks, reserves and forests over the next two days have been urged to be cautious by the environment department. A weak cool change is forecast to bring relief to southern Victoria on the weekend.
Temperatures in Melbourne are expected to reach the mid-20s on Saturday, and remain in the mid-to-high 20s on Sunday.
SA: Tour Down Under hit
South Australia’s three-day heatwave has hit cycling’s Tour Down Under with organisers cutting short Thursday’s third stage.
Tour Down Under race director Mike Turtur says riders and officials have agreed to cut Thursday’s race from Glenelg to Victor Harbor by 26km to ensure the safety of all concerned.
“The safety and welfare of the riders, spectators and everyone involved with the race is always our primary concern,” he said.
The public participation ride scheduled for earlier on Thursday has been cancelled.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the blast of hot weather is being fuelled by a very hot air mass being dragged down from central Australia. The Country Fire Service has declared extreme conditions in two SA districts with seven more considered extreme.
The conditions have prompted the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to issue a lack of reserve notice for a short period in the afternoon. It expects the electricity reserve – the amount above forecast demand – will be 788 megawatts, below the 1100 megawatts of contingency power the operator requires.
But Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the state is well prepared and electricity supplies will be sufficient.