• Australian blackouts lead to blame game

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

ABOVE Photo by Rahul from Pexels

Blackouts in the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria have led to conflicting responses from politicians as to the causes and the best solutions to the problem. With an intense heatwave across much of the country in late January (with the city of Adelaide setting a record temperature for a state capital, at 46.6oC), the Australian Energy Market Operator forced Victorian electricity distributors to institute rolling blackouts affecting 200,000 customers (including an aluminium smelter) in order not to shut down the grid on a more regional level. Two of Victoria’s coal-fired units (together making 1000 MW of capacity) were down for maintenance, and low winds meant low wind power generation, while imports from neighbouring states were at a maximum, limited by the capacity of interconnectors. Reserve generation capacity seemingly was not called into operation early enough. The chief executive of the AEMO explained that aging coal plants would break down more often, saying “there is an expectation that like any old machines – think of old cars – that over time if you run them harder you are going to see more operating conditions that have to be fixed.” It is unclear whether this was a signal that the AEMO wanted to see new thermal plants built, but Victorian opposition leader blamed the current government for shutting down the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant in 2017. The federal government for its part has recently been pushing a plan to build more ‘baseload’ type power generation capacity.