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Blackout risk eases for Australian summer, market operator says
November 27, 2017 / 1:02 PM / 20 days ago

Blackout risk eases for Australian summer, market operator says

MELBOURNE, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The threat of blackouts this summer has eased in Australia, thanks to measures taken to curb demand and beef up power supply, including installation of the world’s biggest battery, the nation’s energy market operator said on Tuesday.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which runs the national electricity market, has lined up nearly 2,000 megawatts of power reserves for this summer, which begins Dec. 1, more than offsetting the closure last March of a 1,600 MW coal-fired power plant, it said in a report.

“I am absolutely confident that AEMO has put together an incredibly comprehensive and robust plan, and that we’ve taken all the right actions and we are in as good a position as one could be going into a summer,” AEMO Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman told Reuters.

Managing the grid has become more challenging with the rise of wind and solar power on the system, which needs back-up when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Last summer was the first in eight years when there were power failures in Australia’s eastern states, and AEMO had warned things could only get worse in the upcoming summer following French firm Engie SA’s closure of the Hazelwood plant in the state of Victoria.

Since then, South Australia, the country’s most wind-dependent state, has taken emergency steps to boost its own power supply, including buying diesel-fired generators and getting Tesla Inc to build a 129 megawatt hour lithium ion battery, set to be switched on soon.

At the same time, three gas-fired power plants in South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania which had been mothballed have been switched back on, adding 833 MW of capacity.

And a programme to add reserves and pay big power users to cut their demand will make 1,150 MW available, including state-owned diesel generators in South Australia and Victoria.

“Clearly, given the events of last summer there is heightened awareness and heightened anxiety. We all need to calm down,” Zibelman said.

$1 = 1.3148 Australian dollars Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Joseph Radford

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