Finance Consumer Second electricity crunch looming in Qld, Vic alert cancelled
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Second electricity crunch looming in Qld, Vic alert cancelled

Energy crisis takes hold across Australia's east

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Queenslanders are being asked to turn down their heaters again with electricity generators refusing to supply enough power for the next two nights.

Households and businesses in southeast and coastal areas are being warned of possible blackouts until Thursday morning.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has asked generators to lift electricity supply, warning it will order them to do so if needed.

“Discussions with scheduled generators indicate an estimate of approximately 2000 megawatts (MWs) of generation in each of Queensland and NSW, which hasn’t bid into the market, can be directed by AEMO to be available to help meet forecast electricity shortfalls,” the operator said in a statement.

Tuesday would be the second consecutive night that AEMO directed generators to fire up idle power plants to maintain supply.

Transmission company Powerlink’s Chief Executive Paul Simshauser said people should “be a bit thoughtful” about their energy use.

“If you’ve got your air conditioner on … just make sure it’s not set to blast furnace mode,” he told ABC Radio.

Queensland electricity generators stopped offering to supply power to the market after AEMO capped skyrocketing wholesale spot prices on Sunday.

AEMO had to order generators to ramp up supply on Monday night despite the state having “sufficient physical generation capacity”.

In Victoria, households and businesses will not go without power after a blackouts warning over shortfalls in energy supplies was cancelled.

The Australian Energy Market Operator on Tuesday issued a “lack of reserve” warning for Wednesday evening, meaning forecast demand was likely to outstrip supply in Victoria.

It initially said “blackouts” could be expected between 6pm and 7.30pm.

After seeking a market response, the regulator cancelled the alert at 4pm on Tuesday.

Companies ‘potentially’ gaming the system

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio blamed the scare on “strange behaviour” from power companies sitting on their reserves and not bidding into the market.

She said the generators are “potentially” gaming the system, a topic federal, state and territory energy ministers asked AEMO to investigate after their meeting last week.

“No one likes the situation we’re seeing now,” Ms D’Ambrosio told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni insists he doesn’t need to intervene because the market is taking care of itself.

“So the system’s working, and for the foreseeable future we’ll continue to manage it accordingly,” he told reporters.

The minister blames the crisis on increased demand amid cold weather, surging coal and gas prices and maintenance outages at public generators.

With fossil prices still surging electricity prices are set to remain high in Queensland, where 83 per cent of energy is generated from coal and gas plants.

Government to offer electricity bill discounts

State-owned Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy supply more than half of the state’s electricity, and have the biggest influence on wholesale spot price movements.

The two generators own coal mines as well, so their fuel prices are much cheaper than private generators.

The minister has the power to order Stanwell and CS to sell cheaper electricity on the market, but Mr de Brenni has refused.

CS Energy told AAP its prices were “commercially sensitive and therefore cannot be shared”, but insisted it was meeting its obligations.

Mr de Brenni denies state-owned generators have been price gouging, saying their prices only “cover costs”.

Instead of intervening, the government will wipe $43 off monthly household electricity bills until mid-2023.

Monthly bills will jump by at least $43 from July, but analysts predict they will leap again before mid-2023 if wholesale prices remain high.

The Queensland government hasn’t offered any relief to businesses yet.

-AAP