Failures at coal generators in Victoria helped trigger rolling blackouts.
Failures at coal generators in Victoria helped trigger rolling blackouts.

No end in sight for nation’s power crisis

AUSTRALIA'S energy crisis is poised to continue over the next two summers as the ­nation's ageing coal-fired power stations pump less ­reliable power into the grid, ­experts have warned.

The warning comes after units at two NSW coal plants broke down forcing the state to rely on interstate power to shore up its energy supply just days after failures at coal generators in Victoria helped trigger rolling blackouts.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood urged governments to consider plugging more diesel generators into the grid to keep the lights on.

"A number of (generator) units had heart failure last week despite a lot of companies spending a lot of money to make sure they didn't fail ­before summer," he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the Morrison government's plan to underwrite new reliable generation was vital to ensure there was enough power available around the country.

But he conceded there were short-term challenges in the system and Australia should never be in a position where diesel generators were considered a reasonable solution.

"It's telling the biggest problems are in Victoria and SA - states that have seen fit to shut down baseload (power stations)," Mr Taylor said.

"For NSW there's still time, we are intervening and it's crucial the state government supports us."

Mr Taylor said the Coalition would "not allow ­another Hazelwood" - a shuttered Victorian power station - because if it was still open last weeks crisis wouldn't have occurred.

"The baseload power that will be lost if Liddell is closed needs to be replaced. If AGL won't replace it then we will step in … using our underwriting program," he said.

 

One of the four units at AGL's Liddell Power Station in the Hunter Valley was switched off yesterday because of a tube leak in the steam system pulling about 400MW from the grid which is not ­expected to be back up and running until the weekend.

It followed a problem with a turbine at Origin's Eraring plant at Lake Macquarie on Tuesday night which killed about 180MW of generation.

It came back online at 2pm yesterday.

The Daily Telegraph understands AGL spent more than $250 million upgrading four of its coal and gas power stations including Liddell to prepare for summer but the investment failed to stop all outages.

Mr Wood said Australians should expect that ageing coal and gas power stations would continue to struggle as the ­nation experienced more bouts of extreme heat over the few summers.

"That's only going to get worse. The evidence of last week shows it takes a pretty unusual set of circumstances for something like that to happen but that those circumstances can apply," he said.