Aging coal infrastructure blamed for energy crisis.
It’s winter in Australia, and the country’s new government is dealing with a severe energy crisis. Some 8 million people in Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, have been urged to do without electricity as much as possible between 6pm and 8pm every day, the BBC reports. “We are confident we can avoid blackouts,” Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said Thursday. “If you have a choice about when to run certain items, don’t run them from 6 to 8.” The evening is a crunch time when solar and wind output drops and demand surges as people come home from work and turn on appliances, reports Reuters.
Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter and it still gets around 75% of its energy from coal, despite calls to step up the switch to renewable energy. The power supply crisis has been caused by multiple issues, including flooding and other issues at coal mines and breakdowns at aging coal-fired plants, along with a surge in demand for heating amid a cold snap, Forbes reports. On Wednesday, regulators took the unprecedented step of suspending the wholesale market for electricity and setting prices directly after several generators withheld capacity, saying the cost of production exceeded the regulator’s price cap.
Analysts say the Australian government has long ignored the risks of relying heavily on aging coal-fired infrastructure. Bowen says the new government plans to step up efforts to boost the renewable energy supply instead of trying to extend the life of coal-fired plants. “We need to urgently upgrade our transmission grid to get cheaper renewable energy from where it’s made to where it’s used,” he tweeted Friday. (Australia is also suffering from a lettuce shortage so severe that KFC is using cabbage instead.)
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