Fire knocks out SA power generator

Tim Dornin

South Australians are being urged to conserve power to help prevent widespread blackouts as an explosion and fire at an Adelaide power station knocked out a significant part of the state's electricity generation capacity.

Three units at the Torrens Island Power Station were cut from the network at 3.35pm on Friday because of the blaze, which was sparked by what authorities say was the "violent" explosion of a voltage transformer.

The nearby Pelican Point Power Station tripped and disconnected from the network at the same time.

There were widespread reports of lights and power dimming, but the incident did not result in blackouts.

To cope with the loss of electricity, the Australian Energy Market Operator directed additional generation to turn on.

AEMO also asked consumers to conserve power where possible to avoid the need for enforced cuts.

"If consumers can safely reduce their electricity consumption during periods of high demand, this can ease the supply-demand balance and can mitigate the need for load shedding," it said in a statement.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said consumers could help by running air conditioners at higher temperatures and refraining from using some appliances, such as washing machines.

The minister said there were no reports of injuries from the incident at the Torrens Island station, which is among the state's oldest energy infrastructure.

The Metropolitan Fire Service said it sent four fire units to the facility but staff had managed to extinguish a series of spot fires before they arrived.

The loss of generating capacity prompted the spot price of electricity in SA to surge to the maximum limit of $14,000 a megawatt hour.

The incident also came after AEMO warned of potential blackouts over the weekend because of planned work on a transmission line in Victoria, which has now been cancelled.

It said maintenance to the Moorabool to Mortlake line would be postponed to support the secure operation of the South Australian electricity network.

It had earlier indicated there would be a lack of reserve power in SA for almost 12 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, although it expected to have sufficient electricity supplies.

Somewhat prophetically, it said if there was an issue with the network during the planned outage, then South Australia could separate from the rest of the National Electricity Market with likely interruptions for local users.

Part of the reason for SA's energy woes this week is the hot weather, with Adelaide sweltering through five days in the mid to high 30s, ensuring continued high demand on the power network.