Regulator steps in to avoid blackouts

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Australia's east coast is bracing for possible power blackouts, with the market operator directing power suppliers in two states to ramp up energy supply.

Outages at coal-fired power plants, at the same time that household heating is in high demand, is putting pressure on the electricity system.

Queensland is at risk of a significant power disruption between 5.30pm to 8pm on Monday, with NSW also on high alert from 7pm on Tuesday due to a predicted supply shortfall.

On Sunday night, the Australian Energy Market Operator took the step of limiting Queensland wholesale prices at $300 per megawatt hour.

Similar caps were imposed in Victoria and South Australia in 2019.

AEMO also ordered generators to supply electricity in Queensland and NSW to meet demand gaps, amid fears of load-shedding.

"To maintain power system security and reliability, AEMO has directed some generators to continue meeting consumers' demand to improve reserve conditions," a market operator spokesperson said.

"At this time, there is no impact to consumer supply."

Earlier, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Albanese government should consider bringing in gas price and volume controls for 90 days in a bid to deal with the short-term energy crisis.

But he said the controls - put in place with the backing of the states - were necessary to deal with pressure on supply and prices created by the "perfect storm" of an explosion in the international gas price, outages at coal-fired power stations and a very cold winter.

"We have a crisis at the moment ... they should be decisive today as I was," Mr Turnbull told the ABC.

"The minute they say they're going to do it, the gas companies will find the gas and agree to offer it at lower prices."

Mr Turnbull defended his government's implementation of a trigger mechanism designed to shore up national gas supplies.

The mechanism is now being reviewed by the Labor government, following an energy ministers' meeting last week.

"It was designed to deal with a different problem at a different time and it worked, so it wasn't useless, it was very useful," Mr Turnbull said.

The gas trigger mechanism forces gas companies to limit exports if there are severe shortages in the domestic supply.

Resources Minister Madeleine King said nothing was off the table under the review.

With the mechanism set to expire in January, Ms King said the government had agreed to renew it so it could be used at a later point if needed.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the current energy market issues were the fault of the previous Morrison government.

"There are things that people have agreed with Chris Bowen on, allowing the market operator to buy and store gas," she told the Seven Network.

"I'm not sure why in almost a decade in power the previous government didn't do that. The big problem that we have now is caused by almost a decade of denial and delay."

Nationals leader David Littleproud rejected claims from Labor that the previous coalition government had overseen nine years of inaction in the sector.

"We were on a trajectory of putting more gas into the system to support the renewables that have come in," he told Sky News on Monday.

Mr Littleproud said new technology needed to be explored, including hydrogen and small-scale nuclear, but greater public education and awareness was needed.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting