Australia has been warned that it may swelter through next summer with the threat of multiple power blackouts, but one Shepparton energy expert believes worries have been amplified.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has issued a mixed blackout forecast for South Australia and Victoria, with its latest annual energy supply outlook showing that unexpected outages at major gas or coal plants could leave both states without energy.
The report warned that without strategies, pressure would likely build on the balance of supply and demand, with an extra 1000 megawatts of energy needed to avoid the shortfalls.
But the issue has been turned into a politicised debate around the expense of renewable energy and a reluctance to reduce the amount of energy generated by coal, according to Goulburn Valley Environment Group vice-president Terry Court.
Mr Court said short-term strategies had to be put in place to bolster the national electricity market, which could come from outside sources, such as back-up diesel generators, battery storage or consumers agreeing to cut energy.
He said major outages in SA last year could have been avoided if arrangements had been put in place to work existent gas generators.
‘‘Considerable work has been done in the past 12 months to make sure that all available generators will be available this summer, and that’s putting aside the closure of Hazelwood power plant,’’ Mr Court said.
‘‘All coal, all gas will be made available, so from my point of view, and I think this is backed up by others, there is a very small chance that in Victoria we will have any substantial power outages.’’
Mr Court said he believed the debate had resulted in scaremongering, and an inability to let go older forms of energy.
He said investing in existing power plants would cost the environment and power prices in the long term, and would take eight years and billions of dollars to bring up to standard.
‘‘I think in the long term we’ve got to make sure our renewable target is set, we need to give confidence to the renewable energy industry to be able to overcome any challenges,’’ he said.
‘‘If we work on projects now, whether that be solar, thermal, or small or large pump storages, there’s a whole suite of things we can do that will drive power prices down in the long term.’’