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‘Significant pressure’: States face another day of power crunch

NSW residents urged to conserve their energy use

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Power supplies remain under “significant pressure”, with governments warning blackouts are still possible.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said he was confident widespread blackouts would be avoided, following Wednesday’s unprecedented intervention in the National Energy Market.

But the crisis is far from over, with millions of NSW residents urged to conserve power for another day.

Queenslanders and Victorians have also been warned of likely shortages on Thursday night, while the South Australian government has threatened to halt exports of energy from the state if there are blackouts there.

“The NSW grid will be under significant pressure between 6pm and 8pm tonight,” Mr Bowen said on Thursday.

“Everybody is working all day to avoid load shedding this evening. We are confident we can avoid blackouts. We will work hard to avoid load shedding.”

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the continuity of power supplies after asking residents to reduce energy use on Wednesday night to prevent blackouts when several coal-fired power stations unexpectedly failed to come online. He was monitoring the situation closely, as supply issues remained.

The call to conserve energy in NSW came after Mr Kean spoke to Australian Energy Market Operator chief executive Daniel Westerman, who told him a generator at the Bayswater Power Station wasn’t coming back online.

“I can inform the public that that generator will be coming online tonight, so supply conditions will ease,” Mr Kean said on Thursday.

“At this stage, we have confidence there’s enough reserve capacity in the system to ensure that we don’t have to ask people to be considerate of their options tonight.

“But we are monitoring the situation closely because of the changed weather conditions and the unreliability of our existing equipment.”

Australia’s energy crisis reached a high point on Wednesday when AEMO suspended the national electricity market to control runaway prices.

It was the first time it had taken such a step, and came after AEMO said it was impossible to ensure reliable power supplies without the intervention.

It had already imposed caps on wholesale power prices, and had ordered generators to continue producing power to supply states such as NSW and Queensland.

Mr Bowen said the suspension would be reviewed every day, and he did not think it would last all of winter.

“I’ve been very clear with the chief executive of the operator. He has my full support for any action he deems necessary. The government will back the operator and the regulators 100 per cent,” he said.

“This intervention will not be lifted one day earlier than it needs to be, in his judgment.”

Mr Bowen and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet industry leaders later on Thursday in an attempt to solve the crisis.

Elsewhere, Mr Kean also lashed out at power generators for not being clear about their available capacity.

“A number of generators have tried to game the system,” he said.

“They haven’t been clear about what capacity they have available.

“My message to the generators needs to be very clear – stop putting your profits above people.”

Mr Kean spoke to energy companies overnight to encourage them to work with the AEMO to bring their capacity online, particularly during times of peak demand.

Sydney’s Vivid light festival was not affected by the call to reduce power usage because it uses energy-efficient LED lights.

Mr Kean advised consumers to upgrade their appliances to energy-efficient systems to cut bills and reduce pressure on the system.

He acknowledged public facilities, including hospitals, had been asked to reduce energy use, but this was not affecting frontline services.

“What we were doing was just being conscious of our energy usage, to take precautionary measures to make sure we safeguard the grid,” Mr Kean said.

Earlier, Mr Kean said the energy crisis gripping NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria showed why it was vital to transition to renewables.

“We need to move to new technology that’s going to keep the lights on and drive prices down,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“Right now we are relying on old technology that’s not reliable.”

Existing coal-fired plants had to be maintained while new infrastructure for renewable power was built, he said.

“We should be moving towards those newer technologies that protect us from global price shocks, that protect us from unreliable equipment and can be financed by the private sector.”

-with AAP