Victoria to experience highest electricity demand in six years

heatwave, renewables

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has warned that it is forecasting the highest electricity demand in Victoria since January 2014 due to extreme temperatures combined with unusually high humidity.

It has urged that while there are currently sufficient electricity reserves to manage peak demand today, the situation could change. AEMO is requesting consumers in Victoria reduce their energy use between 1pm and 8pm today.

“Consumers can temporarily reduce their energy usage where it is safe and possible to do so, by avoiding running additional appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, setting air conditioners to 23-26 degrees, and temporarily switching off pool pumps,” AEMO says.

While AEMO is not currently forecasting supply shortfalls or the need for involuntary load shedding, heatwave conditions that drive high electricity demand, combined with unplanned generation or transmission outages, could result in electricity disruptions. For example, should a major generator fail, or weather conditions further deteriorate. AEMO will try to give consumers as much notice as we can but this may not be possible.

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In addition, these extreme conditions may cause temporary local outages at the distribution ‘poles and wires’ network and this may occur with little notice.

AEMO has contracted additional electricity reserves, however, should these be insufficient to manage unexpected outages of generation or electricity transmission assets, load shedding may be required as an absolute last resort to avert the risk of system collapse, physical damage to parts of the power system or long-term outages to residents and businesses.

AEMO and the electricity industry are working together to minimise the impact on the community, particularly major health facilities, emergency services and public transport. However, these services can still be affected and should have business continuity arrangements in place. 

Monash University Senior Lecturer at the Department of Civil Engineering Dr Rover Dargaville said if people can reduce their consumption during the heat by not using non-essential appliances, this greatly helps the grid and is strongly encouraged.

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“Victoria’s peak demand was set at 10.2GW back in 2014 (three days in a row of 40+ degrees), yesterday (Thursday, January 30) was 9.8GW, but over a GW of this came from rooftop PV, much of which didn’t exist in 2014. So the requirements on the coal and gas generators at the peak was ‘only’ 9.2GW,” Dr Dargaville said.

“There is almost exactly 10GW of ‘dispatchable’ coal, gas and hydro plant in Victoria, plus 1.8GW of rooftop PV, 2.2 GW of wind power and 0.6GW of large-scale solar farms. Solar of course won’t help after sunset, but the forecast is for fairly windy conditions so wind power should make a significant contribution this evening.

“Yesterday the wholesale market price spiked at 7pm, partly because demand was high, but also because Loy Yang A lost one of its units (unit 3, 560MW) which ‘tripped’ offline and was returned to service at around 3am.”