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Power Plant failures push VIC energy grid close to the edge


Source: The AGE

Victoria's strained energy network is about to face its first real test of the summer – several days before summer has even started.

This week's mild November heatwave and the recent failure of two coal-fired power units in the Latrobe Valley have drained the state's energy grid of reserve supply and pushed it towards the danger zone for blackouts.

The Australian Energy Market Operator issued two notices Wednesday afternoon forecasting a lack of reserve in the energy grid as the temperature soars towards the mid-30s on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

The level one alerts are a signal that there is a shortage of back-up energy, meaning any further unanticipated loss of capacity or spike in demand has the potential to cause blackouts in parts of the state.

They are not a signal that blackouts are expected, but merely a warning for the energy market to take steps to provide extra reserves.

The alerts have been triggered by a huge drop in capacity at Victoria's Latrobe Valley plants in the past month, due to two sudden system failures. 


On Saturday one of Yallourn's four generation units was switched off after a boiler failed. It is still under repair.

A second unit was switched off months ago for maintenance.

Last month one of four units at the Loy Yang power station failed. It remains under repair.

The two temporary malfunctions at the Loy Yang and Yallourn have reduced Victoria's energy capacity by about 1300 megawatts and  drained the state of more than 10 per cent of its peak period energy supply.

The failures follow the permanent closure of the 1600-megawatt Hazelwood power plant in March.

The dramatic drop in available coal-fired power has forced Victoria to import large amounts of energy from South Australia, Tasmania and NSW this week and to burn more gas, contributing to spikes in the wholesale energy price in the past week.

The price in Victoria has soared from an average of about $80-$90 per megawatt hour this month to well over $200 in this week's heatwave.

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