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As Canberra brawls, summer energy shortages remain a threat


Source: The Age

As political manoeuvring in the wake of the Finkel Review of the nation's electricity system intensifies, Canberra has been forcibly reminded of the extent of looming energy shortages.

Blackouts could come next summer with the operator of the energy markets warning electricity supplies cannot be guaranteed, with the system exposed to extreme conditions.

In a short-term forecast, AEMO, the Australian Energy Markets Operator, which runs the country's gas and electricity markets, said it now expects there will be sufficient supplies of gas to meet demand through the coming summer, but interruptions cannot be ruled out.

Earlier in the year, the group warned of gas shortfalls, which prompted the federal government to put pressure on gas producers to boost supplies – or face direct government intervention.

"Gas supply remains tight," AEMO's chief executive Audrey Zibelman said, "however the latest industry projections of gas production are just sufficient to meet both domestic gas consumption and electricity generation. Gas availability ... together with new initiatives to reduce peak demand [should help] power system security during those hours on the very few extreme condition days per year."

Extreme weather resulted in power blackouts in some parts of the eastern states last summer, with some large industrial users of energy, such as the Tomago aluminium smelter north of Sydney, forced to halt production for a time.

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