NSW facing blackouts on Friday due to extreme heatwave

New South Wales faces rolling blackouts on Friday as the extraordinary summer heatwave continues across Australia, and after South Australia’s grid faced similar problems on Wednesday.

The Australian Energy Market Operator warned on Thursday morning that the heat-wave, which will send temperatures soaring as high as 45°C in Sydney suburbs, could mean there is not enough capacity in the majority coal-fire powered NSW to meet demand.

It says rolling blackouts, or load shedding, could result, from around 4pm on Friday afternoon.

AEMO made a similar forecast for South Australia on Sunday, but the fact that the state suffered short burst of rolling blackouts, affecting 40,000 people for up to 45 minutes – with the country’s most efficient gas generator sitting idle near Adelaide – has sparked another war of words.

Energy minister Josh Frydenberg said he wouldn’t “politicise” the blackouts, before doing exactly that, blaming the state’s “gamble” on renewables for the grid problem, and describing it as “yet another example of Jay Weatherill’s failed experiment”.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and others joined in. Later, in question time, Frydenberg blamed the blackout on a “lack of wind”, and Treasurer Scott Morrison brandished a lump of coal.

However, South Australia energy minister Tom Koutsantonis blamed the AEMO – which is a federal body – for not ensuring there was enough generation available, and wondered why it allowed Engie’s 250MW gas unit at Pelican Point to sit idle, while consumers and business suffered forced blackouts.

Koutsantonis was particularly outraged given there was three day’s notice of the potential shortfall. Claiming not enough time to fire up the generator simply didn’t cut it. He and premier Jay Weatheril have threatened to take matters into their own hands, even talking of “nationalising” the industry.

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Image via: Bureau of Meteorology

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