Queensland and New South Wales at risk of major blackout

Millions of homes were told to switch off appliances to conserve electricity as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) warned of outages.

Entire suburbs were plunged into darkness last night as power outages hit Australia’s east coast.

Areas in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and north of the city were affected, after energy officials warned that huge swathes of New South Wales and Queensland were facing the threat of losing power.

Parts of Beacon Hill, Frenchs Forest, Narraweena, Cromer and Dee Why were all without electricity on Monday night, Ausgrid said, although power was expected to be back on by the morning.

Millions of homes were told to switch off appliances to conserve electricity earlier in the night as the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) warned of outages.

There are fears that homes in New South Wales and Queensland could be hit by more power outages on Tuesday morning.

Powerlink Chief Executive Paul Simshauser has called on Queenslanders to try and contain their electricity consumption from 5pm on Monday and again on Tuesday morning.

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

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

Households were encouraged to consider the number of rooms being heated, switch off computers and other household appliances and turn off pool pumps.

Businesses were told to think about their use of indoor and outdoor lighting and turn off water heating systems.

The AEMO warned about the potential for electricity demand to exceed supply in Queensland during the peak period overnight.

The market operator has imposed a $300-per-megawatt-hour price cap to halt surging wholesale power prices in both Queensland and NSW, with spot prices exceeding threshold levels under national electricity rules.

The AEMO highlighted an “unusual combination” of unexpected generator outages plus cool winter temperatures and high demand for electricity.

“Gas supplies are sufficient, however very high gas prices means AEMO has already triggered its market generation response mechanisms,” Powerlink said in a statement.

AEMO has directed some generators to continue meeting consumer demand.

Earlier, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called on the Albanese government to work with the states to impose export controls on gas.

Mr Turnbull said the LNG giants would quickly capitulate and find cheaper gas to solve the energy crisis in the eastern states.

“This will involve imposing force majeure on contracts,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

“It’ll be resented bitterly by the industry … but we have a crisis at the moment, and hopefully, it won’t go on for too long.

“The minute they say they’re going to do it, the gas companies will find the gas … they will agree to offer it at lower prices.”

Mr Turnbull called on the government to work with the states and the National Energy Market to impose gas export volume and price controls for a period of 90 days.

“So in other words, make sure that all the gas we need is available here,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull said the last thing gas companies wanted was the precedent of imposing regulation.

“But unless you’re prepared to stare them down … we’ll have the situation where we have electricity prices or wholesale prices $400 a megawatt hour and higher,” he said.

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