By JOHN DOOLEY
MEMBER for Mildura Peter Crisp, PICTURED, predicts the region will experience power outages during extended hot periods this summer.
With this summer marking the first since the closure of Hazelwood Power Station, PICTURED, experts are foreshadowing Victoria will not be able to generate enough base load energy to keep the lights on during the peak summer period.
And it’s a scenario that could spell trouble for Mildura residents, businesses and farmers, according to Mr Crisp, who also stated that: “Daniel Andrews’ ideological warfare over energy has already seen the average Victorian family’s annual power bill jump by $300.”
“We have seen 1600MW of capacity removed from Victoria (following the closure of Hazelwood), which is growing at nearly 150,000 people a year, one of the highest in the western world, and so you can’t take that amount of base load out of the system without consequences,” he said.
“The fact is we have played ‘Russian Roulette’ with our energy supply at a time when we didn’t have to, and shouldn’t have.
“There were better ways to make this transition away from coal-generated power, but we haven’t taken that path.
“While renewables such as solar and wind generation are continuing to increase their contribution, it is a slow process, which at this stage, falls way short of filling the gap.”
Given his engineering background, Mr Crisp is passionate about energy security, and is extremely knowledgeable on the technical details of the National Energy Grid.
“The national electricity distribution system is very complex, and to stabilise the system, eastern Australia has created arguably one the world’s biggest machines known as the Eastern Australian grid,” he said.
The system is an intricate connection of a myriad of power generating capacity, sourced from each of the eastern seaboard States.
Mr Crisp points out that people are creatures of habit, and this is reflected in the energy usage patterns throughout the State, where we have early morning and afternoon peaks when peak load power is needed.
“Base load power is largely generated by coal, intermediate load power typically comes from gas and peak load power generally comes out of hydro,” Mr Crisp said.
He predicts that the crisis period is most likely to occur between 4pm and 7pm on a very hot day “because that’s when you have people going home to turn on air conditioners, computers and appliances to cook dinner and businesses will still be operating.”
“So you end up with an overlap of business and domestic usage adding to the load at the same time,” Mr Crisp said. “Victoria’s highest energy usage occurs in summer when the need to run air conditioners to cool businesses and homes is at its premium.”
Typically during prolonged heat wave conditions the system will cope for a day or two, but on the third and forth day the demand or load has the potential to exceed the generation capacity, according to Mr Crisp.
He also believes that’s when you have to shed something, which is commonly referred to as a blackout.
To avoid major, prolonged outages, the Energy Distribution Grid is working to find solutions which may involve selective load shedding, typically affecting remote areas of the State.
“If the energy distributor has the option of shutting down the peak hour commuter rail network in Melbourne or cutting power to remote areas, I think we know which way they will lean,” Mr Crisp said.
“The reality is there may be impact on growers and businesses in our region if there is an extended outage, and that is why the distribution grid needs to be managed well to ensure that if a blackout occurs in any region, it is for a minimal period and the burden is shared around.”
The other major issue is the cost of energy, which is having an impact on the cost of living, and the local MP is acutely aware there are people in the community, particularly those on pensions and fixed incomes, who are struggling to pay their electricity bills.
“There are people who are frightened to turn on their heaters or air conditioners and others finding they need $300-$400 more each year to pay their bills,” he said. “Business is feeling the heat too with power bills going through the roof.“