16 June 2022

Canberrans urged to 'be mindful' of electricity usage as market operator takes control

| Claire Fenwicke
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Person standing near a heater

If safe to do so, Canberrans have been advised to turn down heaters and pull on extra layers to conserve energy as the national grid faces immense pressure. Photo: File.

Canberrans have been urged to reduce electricity consumption where possible as the national grid faces increasing pressure.

The ACT Government sent out an alert overnight warning power could be in short supply.

The Territory forms part of the NSW grid, which has been issued a Lack of Reserve level 3 (LOR3) forecast for this evening (16 June).

“At this point in time, the ACT Government is asking ACT residents and businesses to voluntarily reduce their electricity use where possible,” a statement said.

“It is important that we reduce our electricity usage to help ensure that the electricity system continues to function effectively and that mandatory load shedding is avoided.”

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The advice came as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) suspended the wholesale spot market yesterday afternoon (15 June), essentially taking control of power distribution and supply from electricity generators.

It’s the first time the market has been suspended.

AEMO chief executive Damien Westerman warned electricity supplies would remain tight in the coming days, particularly in NSW.

“This is to ensure [household’s] lights go on when they flick the switch,” he said.

Previously AEMO had placed a $300 per megawatt-hour price cap on electricity, which saw some energy generators withdraw from the market rather than sell their product at a loss.

Now AEMO will be in charge of what power will be available and when.

“This decision was made because it has become impossible to continue operating the spot market while ensuring a secure and reliable supply of electricity,” Mr Westerman said.

On Tuesday (14 June), the market operator was forced to direct 5 GW of generation through direct interventions, representing 20 per cent of demand.

“In the current situation, suspending the market is the best way to ensure a reliable supply of electricity for Australian homes and businesses,” Mr Westerman said.

“The situation in recent days has posed challenges to the entire energy industry and suspending the market would simplify operations during the significant outages across the energy supply chain.”

Compensation would be offered to energy generators to recoup their losses.

“It is not true to say prices will go up [for customers] under this market suspension,” Mr Westerman said.

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The Australian Energy Council said it understood the need to suspend the market in order to “reset it”.

“It is quite clear that in these unprecedented circumstances and following the application of the Administered Price Cap, the power system was becoming unmanageable,” chief executive Sarah McNamara said.

“We hope the conditions improve in this new phase and we can soon return to an uncapped market.”

The market suspension is being reviewed daily.

ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury said he supported the actions of the market regulator.

“The system was clearly at a breaking point and their decision to suspend the market has provided improved reliability in the short-term,” he said.

“We have seen an extraordinary set of circumstances that clearly point to the fact that we need to revaluate how the energy market is operating. It clearly is not fit for purpose and some of the conduct we have seen from the generators in the last week or so is unacceptable.

“Energy Ministers across Australia will need to look at this very closely and look at what changes need to be made to the rules.”

The Environment, Planning, and Sustainable Development Directorate has advised Canberrans to reduce power consumption.

“The public can assist in reducing demand on the electricity network by turning off unnecessary lighting and electrical appliances,” it said.

“If it is safe for you to do so, only turn the heater on for rooms you are using, set the temperature to around 20 degrees, and close windows, doors and blinds to help keep the heat in.

“The ACT Government is continuing to work with the energy market bodies to find a resolution for the issues currently affecting the electricity market. We hope the ACT public will understand the current challenges and do what they can to reduce electricity use.”

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In the most extreme scenario, Canberrans may be directed by AEMO to immediately begin supply interruptions, known as ’emergency load shedding’.

“We are hoping to avoid unexpected interruptions to our electricity supply, and a reduction in electricity use by customers will help to reduce this risk.”

To reduce energy usage, Evoenergy recommends consumers:

  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Reduce use of heating (set temperature to 20°C or lower)
  • Minimise use of cooking equipment
  • Consolidate refrigeration and turn off unnecessary fridges
  • Reduce use of dishwashers, clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners and second televisions
  • Reduce use of pool pumping and heating operation
  • Reduce the use of TVs or computers for game purposes.

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HiddenDragon6:43 pm 16 Jun 22

Following today’s media conference on this subject, we discover that we have a federal energy minister who compares storing renewably generated electricity with storing rainwater – much, much more “mindfulness” about electricity usage is going to be required……

Tell us more, HiddenDragon. Is storage for future use a difficult concept? What are you trying to say, as opposed to what sentiments you are trying to express?

Perhaps you’d like to actually outline why they are fundamentally different?

The principles and reasons for storage of both water and electricity in this instance are the same even if the technologies differ.

Capital Retro11:25 am 17 Jun 22

I’m wondering if the announcements made this that the now woke BHP will be closing the Mt Arthur coal mine in the Hunter Valley and the WA Labor premier will be shutting down the state owned coal fired power station were deliberately deferred until after the election.

Imagine thinking mining companies are “woke”. LOL.

It’s almost like pure economics are driving these decisions. Weird huh.

BHP is woke? All these people and companies waking up? Shocking.

South Korea connected a new 1350 MW nuclear power reactor to their grid last week, and expect full commercial operation by the end of the year. Construction commenced in 2012, and a second 1350 MW reactor at the Shin-Hanul site should be operational soon. Meanwhile across eastern Australia, we are unsure if we will have power tonight.

So what you’re saying is that if we invest in more expensive power options, we might be able to have a new power plant in 10-15 years if you can get it approved.

Wouldn’t it be easier to put in cheaper renewable power sources?

What I’m saying is we need reliable power 24/7/365, without emissions. Wind and solar, without storage, is not reliable.

Clever Interrobang9:15 pm 16 Jun 22

South Korea is much smaller than Australia geographically and the logistics of supplying power to their country is very different

I agree wind and solar without storage and dispatchable power is unreliable.

So seeing as both of those things are cheaper and far more easily deliverable in Australia, we should work on them before considering nuclear.

Nuclear that would take at least 10years to deliver if you could even find somewhere to put it.

Honestly, we can’t even build gas fired plants anyone near population centres, there’s zero chance of Nuclear even if it did make sense.

During last night’s peak from 6-7pm, the NEM was supplied 29,799 MW/h, with just 28 MW/h coming from batteries.
How many batteries will be required to make up the difference, how expensive will they be, who wants a flammable battery in their area, and how long will it take to install enough battery storage?

I don’t know, how many batteries would it take?

Seems you’re the only one mentioning them as the solution.

Chewy don’t tell me you are admitting you have no idea how many batteries it would take. You hitched yourself to the renewables bandwagon without understanding anything about the storage required to make a network built on unreliable energy sources work.

S. Oak, for a moment I was going to comment on your non sequitur, then I realised it was just a big whoosh that passed you by.

Apparently I have to spell it out slowly because your comprehension skills may be stretched on this topic.

I have never mentioned “batteries” as being the sole solution for the firming of renewables.

In fact, whilst they have their place, they are only suited to short time frame applications, typically less than an hour and mostly for frequency control and grid stability.

Perhaps you should have a think about that first, maybe even do some research. Then maybe we can talk about other types of firming and dispatchable generation technologies if you can get past the basics.

I’ll cut back my electricity usage when all office buildings have every light turned off after hours. This includes Pollie Palace

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