Extreme electricity demand could leave homes without power this summer

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

Experts warn the hot summer sun will see demand for electricity spike to a once-in-a-decade high, possibly causing blackouts and forced power outages across the country.

In its Summer Readiness report, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) confirmed that a steep increase in the electricity demand could cause “load shedding”- or rolling blackouts – in our hottest states. 

Load shedding is the deliberate shutdown of specific areas of the grid and can involve switching off electricity to whole suburbs or directing big industrial users to cut or pare back their usage.

According to AEMO — which controls the east-coast energy market — load shedding is an absolute “last resort” to protect the grid from collapsing. 

During the last El Nino summer in 2019, rolling blackouts left 200,000 Victorian consumers and businesses without power when the state’s electricity generators buckled under the extreme heat.  

According to AEMO’s Executive General Manager of Operations, Michael Gatt, this year could see demand soar even higher. 

“This year’s summer forecast is for hot and dry El Niño conditions, increasing the risk of bushfires and extreme heat, which could see electricity demand reach a 1-in-10-year high across the eastern states and in Western Australia,” said Mr Gatt. 

While the energy provider claims investments in wind and solar projects bolster this year’s grid, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Lasantha Meegahapola says homeowners should still prepare for the worst. 

“The amount of energy produced by these renewable power sources is significantly lower compared to traditional generators, since they can only produce power when there’s wind and sun,” Professor Meegahapola told Build-it.

“Relying too much on these generation sources is too risky without a large storage capacity built into the network.

“Of course, having additional wind and solar power should reduce the risk of blackouts in the coming hot summer, but still, we cannot rule out any blackout risk.”

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s long-range forecast for the summer, most of Australia will see above-average temperatures between December to February.

“December to February maximum and minimum temperatures are at least 2.5 times more likely than normal to be unusually high for much of Australia,” read the forecast.

How you can prepare for a blackout

With power outages on the horizon, it’s worth thinking about an emergency kit to make sure you’re prepared for the worst.

This could include a portable charger for your mobile phone, a radio to receive emergency information, a torch, candles, matches and spare batteries.

If you have medical equipment that needs a constant power supply, make sure you register with your energy retailer. By law, you’re entitled to additional support before and during a power outage.

What to do if the power goes out

If your home loses power, remain indoors and tune into your local emergency broadcaster for news and updates on the situation. 

Remember to turn off appliances at the wall to protect them from an electrical surge once power is restored. It’s a good idea to keep one light switched on so you know when the power is back on. 

If you have a portable generator handy, plug appliances only into the outlets provided on the generator. Do not attempt to connect the generator to your house wiring, and make sure the generator is outside in a well-ventilated area.

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.