The high price of energy demand

The national energy forecaster has warned of state-wide power blackouts before Victorian and Commonwealth ministers prepare for a Council of Australian Governments energy meeting tomorrow.

But environmentalists blame renewable energy “fear mongering” and have stressed a minimal increase to blackout risk under projected coal-fired generation withdrawals.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s report this month suggested potential reliability breaches using last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference emission abatement commitments.

“These breaches would most likely occur when demand is high, coinciding with low wind and rooftop photovoltaic generation, and low levels of electricity supply imported from neighbouring regions,” AEMO chief operating officer Mike Cleary said.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said he was concerned about energy security going forward on the back of supply issues in South Australia and Tasmania as well as rising electricity prices.

“We (Latrobe Valley) are a significant exporter into other states who have experienced enormous challenges when they have moved predominantly into renewable energy,” Mr Northe said.

“Work needs to be undertaken to supply into the future to ensure other states aren’t going to be compromised.”

Environment Victoria campaigns manager Nick Aberle said the risk of blackouts was minimal and stressed a need to focus on modernising the electricity sector.

“The risk of blackout is a tiny increase and it also assumes that we don’t do anything to respond to that risk. This is an opportunity to fix our electricity market,” Dr Aberle said.

He said the National Electricity Objective does not say the market should also be run to cut climate pollution.

“Without that clear directive, the rules of the market will remain stacked in favour of old polluting generators and act as a barrier to clean new energy.”

State Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said she would be pushing to evaluate the appeal process of the Australian Competition Tribunal at the COAG meeting.

Power companies can apply to the tribunal about what electricity businesses charge for providing access to their networks.

She said the current system was complex and resulted in a lengthy and costly process that penalised Victorian families.

“We will stand up and fight to protect the long-term interests of Victorian consumers.”