Thousands of Adelaide homes were without power on Thursday night after a day of record temperatures pushed the nation’s energy network to the limit.
Australia’s electricity market operators – AEMO – triggered emergency powers to manage energy use as Victoria and SA buckled under the heatwave.
That forced larger power users to cut power usage between the critical hours of 4.30pm until 7pm.
Temperatures hit 46.6 degrees in Adelaide at 3.36pm, breaking the previous record of 46.1 degrees on January 12, 1939.
But in Port Augusta, the temperatures soared to 49.5 degrees. Ceduna set a record for the second day running, reaching 48.6 degrees.
The Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) providers were asked to deliver additional supply across Victoria and South Australia if the need arises from Thursday afternoon onwards.
“AEMO does not envisage any supply impact to Victorian and South Australian consumers, however with demand rising in step with the mercury, and the risk of bushfires ever present, AEMO has determined the need to increase its operating reserve,” chief executive officer Audrey Zibelman said.
“We continue to monitor the situation very closely this week, but acknowledge that the supply and demand balance is very tight. Extreme weather (we are seeing forecasts of 37-42 degrees in Victoria and 40-46 degrees in South Australia) naturally puts the power system under pressure (like any type of major machinery), particularly between the peak demand hours of 4pm-7pm.”
Overnight, nearly 20,000 people were left sweltering without power in Adelaide’s inner suburbs.
The blackouts hit nearly 60 areas across Adelaide with repair work expected to last until the early hours of Friday.
The worst blackout was in Adelaide’s western suburbs, where the Fulham Garden substation failed, leaving thousands of homes in darkness.
The beachside suburbs of Semaphore and Henley Beach, Grange and West Lakes all suffered power outages.
There were significant blackouts across Adelaide. For the first time, South Australia’s back-up diesel generators were deployed from 5.30pm.
The generators were bought by the Labor government.
While South Australia was understood to be meeting its energy needs from local supplies, Victoria faced a massive shortfall and was forced to call in supplies from NSW and Tasmania.
The use of the emergency powers is rare. It is only the fifth time they have been invoked in the past two decades.
The diesel generators were purchased by the former Labor SA government last year after controversy over previous blackouts in the state.
In Victoria, Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio urged families to delay using their washing machines and dishwashers in the evening.
“It is putting extreme pressure and stress on our energy system,” she said.
“What we would ask Victorians to do is just be aware and be mindful that the activities that we undertake tonight, when we’re at home, does put that further pressure on our energy system,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten seized on soaring temperatures to argue for climate change reforms.
“Adelaide’s hottest day. How hot does it need to get before the current government does something on climate change?” he tweeted.
- Lower your blinds before you leave for work in the morning
- If you’re at home during the day, run the dishwasher or washing machine earlier in the day to avoid the 4pm-7pm peak electricity demand period
- You don’t have to turn off your air-con during the peak period, but you can help reduce your energy usage by adjusting the setting to 20-24 degrees instead of 18 degrees.
- If you have a pool, temporarily turn off your pool pump during the peak period.