For the first time since the Black Summer bushfires, Evoenergy has alerted its major power consumers in Canberra and surrounds to be ready to prop up the National Electricity Market.
A Lack of Reserve (LOR) level three alert has been forecast for NSW and Queensland this evening (15 June), meaning no reserve power supplies will be available.
The Territory forms part of the NSW region under the National Electricity Market.
At 9 am this morning, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) sent out an electricity market notice which said from 5 pm to 12:30 am, Thursday (16 June), it forecast maximum loads could be interrupted in NSW.
An Evoenergy spokesperson said it had spoken with its larger electricity users in the ACT and they were ready to reduce their use if directed to do so by AEMO.
“Evoenergy has formal arrangements in place with several large customers who are prepared to reduce their load on the network if required,” they said.
“At this stage, Evoenergy does not expect ACT residents or businesses to be affected and Canberrans do not need to reduce their electricity use.
“Evoenergy has a well-established relationship with the market operator and is very well placed to respond should AEMO request Evoenergy to reduce electricity demand in the ACT.”
When there is an imbalance between energy supply and demand, AEMO can issue LOR notices to the market to encourage more electricity generation.
AEMO issued the level three alert in an effort to get energy market generators to bid their market availability which can be directed across the National Electricity Market to address shortfalls.
As of this morning, AEMO still sought energy generator support to fill forecast supply gaps.
It also entered into a “reserve contract” through the Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader, which could be triggered to maintain the power system from 5 pm tonight.
There is a difference between a forecast LOR and an actual LOR. AEMO said an actual LOR was when the “market response to the forecast LOR has not been adequate to clear the LOR thresholds, and the LOR becomes an operational reality”.
Under an actual LOR level three, “controlled shedding” to parts of the power system servicing homes and businesses may be required as a last resort.
“Load shedding is a last resort response to bring power flows into balance, averting the risk of system collapse or physical damage to parts of the power system,” according to an AEMO fact sheet.
“After all supply and demand response options available to AEMO have been exhausted, including importing more power from other states, wholesale demand response, tapping into emergency energy reserves and calling on the Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader, load shedding may be required.”
It comes as AEMO enforced wholesale electricity price caps of $300 per megawatt-hour to power generators to meet the forecast electricity supply shortfalls.
Wholesale electricity prices have been capped in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia due to the prices reaching the cumulative high price threshold, which is $1,359,100 over a seven-day period.
Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen recently said he had no doubt AEMO was up to the task of making sure we had enough power supply.
“Nobody is being asked to turn off anything they need … certainly no one should be turning their heating off or anything that’s essential,” he said.
“AEMO is actually working pretty hard to keep the generators putting into the system and using their powers where necessary.
“I have no doubt that they will again ensure we can avoid that load shedding wherever possible and, based on the advice, I’m confident we can.”
The pressure on the system is due to cold temperatures across the east coast creating higher demand at the same time as several coal-fired power plants are offline.
Mr Bowen said some outages were planned, but others were unexpected.
“Particularly with an ageing fleet, you can’t predict when a coal-fired power station is going to go out,” he said.
“We all know we have to transition to new forms of energy and that’s been ill-managed over the last decade and we’re paying the price for that.”
A blackout was reported in the Oaks Estate area of Queanbeyan overnight which provider Essential Energy said affected about 1,600 customers.
“It was the result of a fault being detected on the electricity network,” southeastern operations manager Darren Basterfield said.
“Power was automatically isolated to customers, ensuring their safety while crews investigated.
“Crews located a fault in the underground electricity network near the Oaks Estate Zone Substation and were able to isolate the fault enabling power to be restored to all customers just after 9 pm.”
The underground cable fault will be examined further today.