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Queensland, NSW power blackouts warned as AEMO direct generators to protect network

After Queensland and New South Wales were warned of potential blackouts with a power shortage tonight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says it is using its powers under the National Electricity Rules (NER) to direct generators to alleviate lack of reserve conditions.

The AEMO had issued a ‘lack of reserve’ forecast, meaning demand was likely to outstrip supply in the two states.

But in a statement issued at 5:20pm it said efforts at this stage had “provided sufficient generation to cover the lack of reserve 3 shortfall”.

AEMO said it would “continue to monitor reserve conditions closely in Queensland, and more broadly across the NEM [National Energy Market]providing further updates should conditions change”.

Earlier this afternoon Queenslanders were urged to conserve electricity or face load shedding from 5pm until 11pm, and that people in New South Wales would need to conserve power from about 8pm.

The AEMO had said if demand outstripped what was being generated, load shedding would happen to protect the network.

It comes as a consequence of skyrocketing energy prices, which saw AEMO set an energy price cap on Sunday, limiting the wholesale price of energy to $300 a megawatt hour.

AEMO said the market would be notified when the energy price cap was lifted.

About seven generators offline

Powerlink Queensland chief executive Paul Simshauser said the shortage was caused by a combination of events, such as the colder weather, which increased electricity consumption “higher than the median forecasts”.

“On the supply side, there’s a number of generators that are undergoing routine maintenance, but there are a couple that are on emergency maintenance as well,” Mr Simshauser said.

He said there were about seven generators offline.

“It’s not unusual to have three or four generators during this time of year, but we are up a bit on maintenance numbers,” he said.

He said power supply was expected to be tight over the next couple of days until more generators were back online.

Where the power system was tight, Mr Simshauser was asking residents to be “thoughtful” with their electricity use.

“We’re really only talking about two or three hours in the evening peak — so around about sort of 5:30pm to 8:30pm, and just in the morning,” he said.

Mr Simshauser said rotational load shedding was unlikely as currently “the right generators are turning on at the right time”.

“If there are any further mechanical breakdowns at any of our coal or gas generators, clearly that could change circumstances,” he said.

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Queensland and New South Wales were warned of power load shedding earlier on Monday

Associate professor of energy economics at the University of Adelaide Dr Liam Wagner said the lack of supply was of real concern.

“That has broader implications for the system stability and security of supply for electricity across the eastern market,” he said.

He said if it was not managed properly, blackouts could affect other states on the national energy grid.

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