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Electricity shortfall predicted in Queensland and NSW, after extraordinary AEMO intervention

The east coast’s electricity grid will come under strain again on Tuesday morning after the Australian Energy Market Operator stepped in to order electricity generators online to prevent blackouts on Monday evening.

AEMO is predicting an energy shortfall — demand exceeding reserve supply — in both Queensland and NSW on Tuesday night.

The same level three “lack of reserve” warning on Monday sparked warnings of blackouts before AEMO stepped in to ensure supply.

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The onset of winter has people switching on their electricity-intensive appliances like air-conditioners and heaters. (Luis Enrique Ascui/The Age)

And the problem could spread to other states, with the operator watching whether automatic energy price caps triggered late on Monday in Victoria and South Australia will affect supply.

On Monday, AEMO said there was plenty of physical generation capacity in Queensland, but power generators had reduced their availability thanks to a price cap limiting costs to $300/MWh.

“There’s literally no spare capacity in the Queensland region, there’s just enough supply to meet demand but it can’t cope with any more outages or any contingencies of of any kind power,” Danny Price from Frontier Economics told 9News.

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The power system is struggling to cope with demand. (Luis Enrique Ascui/The Age)

An AEMO spokesperson called the potential power shortage a “unique situation”, adding international gas prices influenced by global tensions had contributed to the price spike.

Powerlink Queensland said winter heating and “unexpected generator outages” contributed to power shortfalls.

Late on Monday, NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said he had been receiving regular briefings from AEMO.

“I’ve been informed the situation is under control, with AEMO directing generators to ensure there is enough supply online when it’s needed,” he said, on Twitter.

The cap is automatically triggered once weekly energy costs surged past a pre-determined weekly “cumulative price threshold” of $1,359,100 in any given state.

On Monday night, AEMO said “critical electricity supply shortfalls” after it took actions including director generators to come online.

The operator expects an electricity reserve shortfall in Queensland from 6.30am to 7.30am in Queensland on Tuesday before a much larger supply-demand gap from 5pm to 9pm, peaking at 949 MW.

According to energy market analyst Paul McArdle at WattClarity, that is roughly equivalent to two thirds of Brisbane’s energy needs.

In NSW, AEMO expects a shortfall from 5.30pm to 8.30pm, with a peak deficit of 546 MW.

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Queensland and NSW residents have been urged to conserve power during peak hours. (Luis Enrique Ascui/The Age)

Queensland residents had been urged to conserve power between the peak hours of 5-8.30pm and 8am Tuesday morning in case of potential black outs.

A spokesperson for the Australian Energy Market Operator on Monday night said the power system had stabilized and power deficits in Queensland had been avoided but the situation would be monitored throughout the week.

Powerlink Queensland said reducing power during periods of potential electricity shortages may alleviate stress on the power system and ensure essential services and commercial businesses don’t lose power.

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“By carefully managing electricity use at home and in your workplace, the community can help ensure that power system security is maintained in Queensland,” chief executive Paul Simshauser said.

“Community safety and wellbeing is important so only manage energy consumption if it is safe to do so.”

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