Publication Date January 24, 2019

Record-breaking heatwave triggers power cuts on Australia's stressed grid

FILE: A lone tree stands near a water trough in a drought-effected paddock on Jimmie and May McKeown's property located on the outskirts of town of Walgett, in New South Wales, Australia, July 20, 2018. Photo: AP

Blistering heat triggered power outages on Australia’s strained grid on Friday as demand for air-conditioning soared and coal-fired generators struggled to meet the surge in consumption.

To shore up the grid, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) cut power to Alcoa Corp’s Portland aluminum smelter, the biggest consumer in the state of Victoria, for nearly two hours on Thursday evening and on Friday.

The record-breaking heatwave over the past week sent power prices soaring across southeastern Australia.

Wholesale power prices in Victoria hit the market cap of A$14,500 ($10,298) per megawatt hour (MWh) before midday on Friday, earlier than expected, then dropped to A$300, National Electricity Market data showed.


Temperatures in the South Australian capital of Adelaide rose to just shy of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, a record high. Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, was set to hit 44C on Friday, before a drop of about 15 degrees expected mid-afternoon.

Victoria Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it was clear Australia’s summers were getting longer, hotter and more extreme because of climate change.

“We can see that the problem we’ve got now is that we’ve got a 20th century system for a 21st century climate,” she told reporters at a televised briefing.