The challenge of extreme weather and maintaining power supply

The past 12 months have seen major and extreme weather events impact many Australians and at times the power system.

Today the peak body for generators and retailers, the Australian Energy Council (AEC), and the peak body for transmission and distribution network operators, Energy Networks Australia (ENA), have released a detailed fact sheet explaining how the energy sector prepares for summer’s extreme weather.

As the weather heats up, electricity demand is often at its peak and the electricity grid is put under strain.

We have also seen the impact of an extended La Nina in recent times, in particular the weather pattern has resulted in flooding events, while we also saw the impact of strong winds on the power grid in South Australia last year and more recently cyclone activity in Western Australia.

ENA CEO Andrew Dillon said powerful storms, cyclones and flash flooding could cause disruptions to transmission and distribution networks.

“Networks, operators, regulators, governments, retailers, and emergency services know when heatwaves are coming and plan accordingly. As the effects of climate change are felt across the country, extreme weather events are becoming increasingly regular and intense,” he said.

“We understand how inconvenient outages are and networks work throughout the year to ensure the grid is prepared for the extreme weather events we can experience in Australia. Power disruptions can result in life threatening situations for some vulnerable customers and networks work at pace to ensure the power is restored to these customers as soon as possible.”

The AEC’s Chief Executive Sarah McNamara said while generators worked throughout the year to ensure that demand was met during peak times, high temperatures could affect key infrastructure.

“Ongoing maintenance takes place throughout the year to keep the grid and generators in good working order before summer,” Ms McNamara said.

“We also saw last year how an extended cold snap can push up demand unexpectedly. Both planned and unplanned outages at plants saw tight supply conditions with generators working closely with the market operator to maintain supply throughout that period.”

Customers are encouraged to follow their electricity distributor’s social media pages for information about outages.

You can find your local electricity distributor here.

The fact sheet is available here.