ENVIRONMENT, POWER UTILITY | Staff Reporter, Australia

Record-breaking heatwaves break Australia's power grid

Cuts of 200MW have been ordered, sending 60,000 customers in Victoria to darkness.

Some Australian homes plunged into darkness no thanks to extreme heatwaves that stressed the country’s power grid and caused power outages, Reuters reports.

The demand for air-conditioning soared and coal-fired power generators struggled to meet the surge in consumption. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) cut power to Alcoa Corp’s Portland aluminium smelter, the biggest consumer in the state of Victoria, for nearly two hours on 24 and 25 January.

Power prices in Southeastern Australia have also soared the past week due to high power demand. Prices in Victoria hit the market cap of $10,298/MWh on 25 January before dropping to $215.65.

Transmission links from the states of Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia were transferring power to Victoria at full capacity, said AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman, as supply only hit 1,800MW.

The AEMO has ordered cuts of 200MW, which affected about 60,000 Victorian customers.

Temperatures in the South Australian capital of Adelaide rose to just shy of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on 24 January.

Victoria Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio noted that Australia’s summers were getting longer, hotter and more extreme because of climate change. “We can see that the problem we’ve got now is that we’ve got a 20th century system for a 21st century climate,” she told reporters at a televised briefing.

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