23rd Feb 2017
The Victorian Government has told the national energy operator “under no circumstances” could it cut power to regional centres in order to keep New South Wales operating during a recent heatwave.
Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio confirmed she was approached by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) with the suggestion that either Ballarat or Bendigo could potentially lose electricity for a period of time to assist NSW.
“I made it absolutely clear that under no circumstances would our Government be prepared to accept that,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
“Victoria is a net exporter of electricity — we have no problems in Victoria in terms of our energy supply and it was absolutely not appropriate that Victoria had to pay consequences for failures in New South Wales.”
But AEMO disputed the Minister’s recollection of events, saying it never asked for, instructed or directed any load shedding in Victoria.
In a statement, the energy market operator said load shedding in north-west Victoria would only have occurred to protect the power system from overloading.
AEMO admitted there was strain due to increased demand as a result of the hot temperatures but the Victorian power system remained secure throughout the heatwave.
As the temperature soared on February 10 and with three NSW thermal energy power stations unable to produce power during the peak demand, Ms D’Ambrosio maintained the request was made to ensure a major transmission line between Victoria and NSW stayed at full capacity.
While parts of NSW struggled through the extreme heatwave, the temperature also exceeded 40 degrees in Bendigo for two days in a row.
‘It’s much better a few centres lose power’
Senior energy analyst at the Melbourne Energy Institute Roger Dargaville said the physical location of Ballarat and Bendigo on the grid, rather than any perceived pecking order for power, would have potentially put those regional centres in line for power cuts.
“They are on one of the feeders that leads into NSW so they’re effectively using power that could go into NSW,” he told ABC Radio Ballarat.
“It’s much better that a few centres lose power than the entire state or the entire grid in fact, were to black out.”
“But you have to ask the question … who gets knocked off first and who do you keep on the grid for as long as possible?”
As the evening peak arrived and with no further generation available, AEMO ordered the Tomago aluminium smelter near Newcastle reduce its demand to keep the NSW power system operating.