Qld heat squeezes electricity grid as record demand tipped on Monday

But Josh Stabler, managing director of adviser Energy Edge said he expected AEMO to have to call on emergency reserves to cope with the record demand and pointed to the risk of “load shedding”, involving rolling blackouts for some districts.

AEMO on Monday also issued local temperature alerts across Queensland, South Australia and Victoria lasting through until January 26, and asked generators to check they are accurately forecasting which generating plants will be available. The move signals ongoing pressures on the power system that will capture millions of customers.

Earlier on Monday, Mr de Brenni said the power system would be “pushed hard” but that Queenslanders should not be concerned and could use their air conditioners if necessary.

“I have assured the premier that the advice is clear – we are currently forecasting enough supply to keep the lights on, and to keep the air conditioners running, despite today’s extreme heat,” he said.

However, he said that if it was not necessary to use air conditioners and other appliances “then that will help”.

Temperatures reached 35 degrees in Brisbane on Monday and were forecast to stay near 30 degrees for the rest of the week. Sydney was forecast for multiple 30-degree plus days this week, and Adelaide was due for a 41-degree day on Tuesday.

Federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen on Monday said the preparations taken by AEMO and governments ahead of the hot weather meant the energy system “has been coping very well” this summer.

State-owned generator CS Energy, which last week further delayed the restart of two generating units at its Callide site, said it was dispatching all its available generation units into the market to support the security of electricity supply.

Electricity demand in Queensland surged on Sunday evening to near-record levels, sending wholesale prices rocketing towards the capped price of $16,600 per megawatt-hour. Demand reached almost 11,000 MW by 5.20pm on Monday, well above the record and about 500MW above what AEMO was forecasting.

Prices reached $16.575/MWh just after 6pm on Sunday as the squeeze took hold, almost 200 times higher than the more typical levels on Monday morning. NSW prices topped $9500/MWh half an hour later amid low winds and as solar generation faded.

Electricity market watcher Paul McArdle said constraints on the interconnecting transmission lines between NSW and Queensland were a significant factor in the squeeze. He said the QNI interconnector was currently limited in the volume of power it can transport power south, adding to the complexity of managing the grid.

Writing on his Wattclarity online news service, Mr McArdle said the “massive”, middle-of-the-day, solar generation from rooftop systems and large-scale plants faded fast as the sun set on Sunday evening, while only about 100MW of wind generation was running. Gas peaking plants were starting to kick in, as well as some liquid fuel generation and supply from large-scale batteries.

Mr Stabler said underlying demand – including rooftop solar – also set a new record of 12,882MW on Monday, breaking the previous all-time high by more than 1.1GW, with still two hours to go before the evening peak.

The squeeze on the grid stands in contrast to a series of warnings over the holiday period about record low demand for power from the grid in Victoria and South Australia due to abundant generation from rooftop solar panels.

The situation, which led to extended periods of negative wholesale prices for electricity, has highlighted the sharp swings in demand experienced across the broader power system during the transition to lower carbon energy.

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