Once-in-a-decade threat to Aussies because of extreme weather

Once-in-a-decade weather events are set to increase electricity demand across Australia this summer, threatening blackouts and energy grid reliability.

The Australian Energy Market Operator warned weather conditions this summer would likely hike up electricity demand for households and businesses across the country.

Following the release of their 2023-24 Summer Readiness Review, operations general manger Michael Gatt said contingencies were now in place to meet the expected “extreme demand”.

“This year’s summer forecast is for hot and dry El Nino conditions, increasing the risk of bushfires and extreme heat, which could see electricity demand reach a one-in-10-year high across the eastern states and in Western Australia,” Mr Gatt said.

“The entire industry has been focusing and continues to focus on managing possible risks for the summer ahead, particularly during high demand periods.”

Camera IconHomes across the east and west of Australia are likely to call for once-in-a-decade electricity demand this summer. NCA NewsWire / David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia
Students protest climate change inaction. Julie Cross.
Camera IconStudents protest climate change inaction. Julie Cross. Credit: Supplied

RMIT University electrical and biomedical engineering associate professor Lasantha Meegahapola said relying on “traditional” energy sources over renewables was risky considering likely weather conditions over the New Year.

Renewable energy sources, mainly wind and solar power, had filled the void and put the electricity system in a “better position” than last year, Professor Meegahapola said, adding that more was needed to avoid blackouts and system failures.

“According to the Australian Energy Market Operator we are in a much better position than last year due to additional wind and solar capacity added to the system,” she said.

“Relying too much on these generation sources is too risky without a large storage capacity built into the network.

“Of course, having additional wind and solar power should reduce the risk of blackouts in the coming hot summer, but still, we cannot rule out any blackout risk.”

Professor Meegahapola said despite the encouraging trend, the amount of energy produced by these renewable power sources was “significantly lower” than traditional generators.

To make the power grid more “robust”, Professor Meegahapola suggested increasing energy storage for power created by renewable sources and introducing batteries and “microgrids” within local Australian communities.

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