Another electricity crunch looming in Qld

Queenslanders are again being asked to turn down their heaters to avoid blackouts two days after coal- and gas-fired electricity generators unexpectedly cut supplies in the middle of a winter chill.

Households and businesses were spared blackouts on Monday night after power plants were ordered to fire up by the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The shortage of electricity supply is due to some coal and gas generators taking power plants offline in response to the market operator capping wholesale prices on Sunday night.


Transmission line operator Powerlink’s chief executive Paul Simshauser is expecting another supply crunch, suggesting people should lower their heaters from “blast furnace mode” between 5.30pm and 9pm on Tuesday.

He says the market operator is likely to again step in to order coal and gas generators to fire up their plants.

“They will, they’ll step in again and they’ll probably start doing that around about 5.30pm this evening through to about 9pm when the peak passes,” Mr Shimshauser told ABC radio.

“My expectation is, all going well, that will be the last topic as we start seeing some of those big generators returning from their maintenance outages.”

AMEO said there had been “sufficient physical generation capacity” available in Queensland on Monday ahead of the supply crunch.

It said generators offered less electricity supply on the market on Monday after wholesale prices were capped at $300 per megawatt hour on Sunday night.

“Available offers from generators reduced, contributing to a forecast supply shortfall,” AEMO said on Monday night.

Mr Shimshauser blamed the supply crunch on gas generators stepping in to cover coal generators who were conducting planned and unplanned maintenance.

He said the gas plants’ electricity output was cut due to the AEMO introducing a price cap, which remains in place on Tuesday morning.

“There were a number of gas-fired generators who had stepped out of the market just because we were in a period where our wholesale market prices are being administered and set at $300,” he said.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni has resisted calls to intervene in the wholesale market by making state-owned generators Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy offer electricity at lower prices.

Those two generators own coalmines and do not have to pay international rates for the fuel for their plants.

The government did order Stanwell to lower its offers in 2017, but has so far decided not to do so on this occasion.

Instead of hitting high wholesale prices at the source, the state government will wipe $44 off monthly household power bills which are set to rise by at least $43 from July.

Mr de Brenni has stridently denied Stanwell and CS Energy are taking advantage of high coal and gas prices, saying their charges for wholesale electricity supply only “cover costs”.

© AAP 2022