Political finger-pointing as South Australia suffers heatwave, blackout

Areas of South Australia will swelter over 40 degrees Celsius. Photo / South Australia Tourism
Areas of South Australia will swelter over 40 degrees Celsius. Photo / South Australia Tourism

The Australian Government wants South Australia to do whatever it can to reopen a 32-year-old coal-fired power station in the wake of yet another blackout.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has labelled the state's electricity grid a basket case and blasted Labor Premier Jay Weatherill's big renewable energy experiment.

About 40,000 Adelaide properties lost power for half an hour at the end of a 42C day yesterday after the Australian Energy Market Operator ordered "load shedding" when demand spiked and generation dropped.

Today is also expected to be hot in South Australia and the towns of Bourke, Birdsville and Moomba are forecast to suffer four days above 40C.

"Labor incompetence has subjected the people of South Australia to Third World conditions," Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra today.

"It's up to the South Australian Government to know what's right for its state and by allowing themselves to have this very high uptake of renewables, they have invited this instability."

Frydenberg acknowledged grid-wide battery storage would help but the technology was not well enough advanced.

Weatherill blamed the national energy market for the outages, pointing to the fact an available gas-powered generation plant wasn't made to come online.

"The rules of the energy market are broken," he said in a Facebook video session shortly after the blackout.

Frydenberg has asked AEMO for an urgent report into what happened, after the regulator offered a different account of why the gas-fired power station at Pelican Point wasn't turned on to help meet demand.

The report is expected within a fortnight.

In the meantime, Frydenberg said the SA Government should look at every option to stabilise the system.

"If that means going back to the owners of the Northern Power station and saying 'this is something that we must investigate to re-start this, even though the closure's been announced', then you must do it," he said.

Alinta Energy closed the black coal Northern Station in Port Augusta last May and it is already partially demolished.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the state Government hadn't done enough to plan for grid stability and wanted to blame everyone else for failures.

"The South Australian Labor government has created a situation where that state, crying out for more investment and more industry, has the most expensive and least reliable electricity in Australia," he told reporters in Canberra.

"This is not an issue about the virtues of fossil fuel, one type or another, or wind energy or renewable energy, this is an issue about competence."

Meanwhile, hot weather is taking a toll elsewhere in the country.

A bushfire in Perth's semi-rural southeast has been contained after about 130 firefighters battled the dangerous blaze overnight.

An emergency warning was issued to residents in parts of Bedfordale, Byford and Wungong in the City of Armadale last night and remained in place until early today, when downgraded to an advice.

Authorities say there is no immediate danger to lives or homes but people in the area need to be aware and keep up to date in case the situation changes.

The heat in Victoria is not expected to ease until tomorrow after an overnight low of 28.6C kept the state sweltering through the night.

A total fire ban is in place for the Mallee, Wimmera and central areas, including Melbourne, for today, with the mercury tipped to reach 37C in the capital and more than 40C elsewhere.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington says strengthening northerly winds has led to a spike in the fire danger.


- AAP

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 23 May 2017 16:16:28 Processing Time: 1043ms