HomeFinance'Get your candles' ahead of blackouts, experts warn

‘Get your candles’ ahead of blackouts, experts warn

Energy experts and the energy regulator say Australia is at real risk of widespread blackouts this summer – and every summer for the next decade – unless the proposed transition from coal generation to renewable energy is sped up.

A return of scorching El Nino conditions this summer, combined with a stretched electricity grid and the slow roll-out of renewable energy projects has prompted energy experts to warn Aussies it’s time to “get your candles” due to the threat of blackouts.

Zoe Whitton, managing director and head of impact at climate change advisory firm Pollination, told the AFR Energy and Climate Summit the increased bushfire potential this year will strain the grid to breaking point.

“You don’t just need your candles, you also need your air purifier for when the electricity is on and stuff is burning,” she said.

Renewables target

Australia is aiming to generate 82 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030.

Speaking at the summit, climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen defended the targets, saying increasing renewables is still the best way to secure energy for Australia’s future.

“We always said this was going to be a difficult task,” he said.

“A scenario where over 80 per cent renewables is the lowest cost way to meet the energy security requirements of our grid as ageing and increasingly unreliable plant exits.

“Our ambition is in line with the most likely pace of change, in line with the capacity needed in the grid.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently examined our predicted energy needs for the next decade and found the national energy grid will most likely come up short this summer unless “urgent” investment is made in renewable energy as coal-fired power stations are retired.

The Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO) report says current renewable energy generation and storage projects in the pipeline will not be sufficient to cover the generation capacity lost when the coal stations close, with Victoria and South Australia to be hit particularly hard.

“Considering only existing, committed and anticipated projects as per the ESOO’s ‘central scenario’, reliability risks are forecast to exceed the relevant reliability standard in Victoria from this summer, in New South Wales from 2025-26, South Australia this summer and then again from 2028-29 and Queensland from 2029-30,” the report says.

“The reliability gaps identified through the ‘central scenario’ form an important part of the electricity planning process, as they provide the signal, and in some cases the obligation, for electricity retailers to contract sufficient capacity to provide for a reliable power system.

‘Sluggish’ pace

AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman says the report highlights the sluggish pace of Australia’s energy transition and the urgency needed to deliver new investment to ensure reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for consumers.

“Over the 10-year outlook, we continue to forecast reliability gaps, which are mostly due to the expectation that 62 per cent of today’s coal fleet will retire by 2033,” he says.

“To ensure Australian consumers continue to have access to reliable electricity supplies, it’s critical that planned investments in transmission, generation and storage projects are urgently delivered.”

The ESOO is produced using insights from developer and market participant surveys, transmission information, and extended analysis of energy limitations, like the potential impact of drought conditions, coal and gas supply shortfalls.

It also found the return of El Nino conditions this summer has the potential to send power demand to levels never before seen, with the very real risk of rolling blackouts in some areas.

“We’re expecting an elevated level of risk [of blackouts] compared to recent years, mostly due to hotter and drier conditions, and coal-fired generation reliability is at historic lows,” Mr Westerman says.

“The entire industry is focused on managing the risks in the summer ahead, particularly during high-demand periods coupled with generation outages and low renewable output, but some risk will remain.

“In the longer term, AEMO will continue to collaborate with industry and governments to deliver energy projects to maintain reliable and affordable electricity for all consumers.”

Is the transition to renewable energy putting lives at risk? Should the ambitious climate targets be reconsidered? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Also read: Smart meters: Can they cut hundreds of dollars off your energy bills?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Time they made batteries more affordable for people who have put solar on, as well as give a decent feedback tariff. People with solar are generating electricity, and having to buy it back at an increased rate more than they are getting for their solar fed into the grid.

    • And, Europe’s backtrack wouldn’t have anything to do with the War in Ukraine, would it ???
      Forget Nuclear for the forseeable future , from a report I was reading yesterday:-
      “According to a 2023 report by the CSIRO, nuclear power does not currently provide an economically competitive solution in Australia. However, the report also notes that small modular reactors (SMRs) could play a role in Australia’s longer-term energy needs if they can be developed and deployed at scale.”
      Taking note of the end of the last statement.

  2. Why is the Australian Government so blind and deaf to the changes made by many countries in the last 12 months or more, especially in Europe. Even “Greta’s” own country, Sweden has now found it cannot sustain energy, without nuclear power. Australia should have the cheapest energy in the world, not the most expensive, considering the size of our resources in gas and coal. Other countries are turning back to use nuclear energy, using the newer types of small nuclear power generators.
    At the same time the biggest polluters on the planet, China and India are building newer coal powered generators with lower emissions. Australia’s problem is that our current Government think you can revolutionize the current energy market in 10 years, which has been built over more than 200 years.

    • The main reason we have expensive power is the industry has been flogged off to foreign carpetbaggers who charge us like wounded bulls and take the profits overseas often tax free.
      Our governments, both major parties, are culpable.

  3. Common sense indicates that renewable energy sources sufficient to generate power needs should have been in place before existing sources are shut down.
    Blackouts affect much more than lights, heating and cooling. There is medical equipment in homes and food storage to be considered.
    Solar storage batteries are not just expensive, they are proving to be unreliable and dangerously bursting into flames when there is no satisfactory method of extinguishing the resulting fire.
    I haven’t heard of houses being burnt down……yet.

  4. If people had listened in the first place we would not be in this situation.
    Unfortunately Governments took the view that the best and quickest way to encourage the transition to renewables and clean energy was to force the cost of existing energy sources up by increasing tax penalties.
    This was encourage by the environmental lobby as a way of reducing Carbon Diode emissions and other Greenhouse gases. Although some of this was true, note carbon diode levels have increased by 50% in the last 50% years, so they blamed only the petrochemical industry. In fact the largest source of carbon diode is from the 100% in crease in humans on the planet.
    Because of the hysteria and fear caused, governments reacted with penalties and bans instead of an ordered plan to transition through various phases of technology, such as clean coal, sequestion, and other as stepping stones,.
    Instead they caused no investment and created the situation were to modify and modernise existing power generation had become non viable as a result of their actions.
    at the same time the ideology of renewables was streaming far ahead of both the technologies, and the abilities to not only contract but also finance those new technologies.
    At the same time little or no proper planning or understanding of the lifecycles of the various types of renewables, the ecological impact of the mining, transport, energy requirements, nor the disposal or recycling costs and impacts.
    People refer to batteries for their power, but batteries do not create energy they only store it, they have a limited life, and with some of the preferred types (lithium), have other extreme issues to be dealt with. Battery technologies are advancing at a fantastic rate , however it is going to be a further 5 to 10 years for them to be commercially viable in sufficient quantities.

    Many people see the solution to our problems as just renewables of various types but particularly wind and solar with battery battery backup.

    This is the idealist view but is not practical.
    There are many other types in the mix long term and provide secure and cheap, affordable energy the answer is not one or another but a constantly changing ratio of all types of energy generation.

    Those sources include:
    Wind (although the existing types and designs are extremely inefficient and costly)
    Hydro (in all its forms)
    Coal (in all its clean forms)
    Nuclear (particularly small fission reactors)
    and other types.

    This country, if it cannot, or will not produce cheap energy, will quickly become even more uncompetitive in world markets for all products, whether it be food, agricultural products, mining products, or tourism, not just manufacturing.

    The result will be no jobs, no future and a rapid slide in living standards and quality of life.

    Everything in life is a balancing act, but the only way to keep that balance is by proper planning and controls.

    Unfortunately both in this country and others, governments of all persuasions, at all levels, have allowed the influence of the so called intellectuals, to override the way they operate by being reactionary to those influences due to the electoral power they exert, sad really.
    wE are seeing the results not only in higher energy costs but also in higher costs for everything.

  5. As I come from the Energy industry the number one issue was “keep the lights on”
    This current Government has got no idea how to do that as it is driven by “save the world greenhouse agreements and Impractible academic solutions.
    Small nuclear plants together with gas and mix of relabels is the only answer.
    We are dreaming if we think our manufacting industry can be run on sources of green energy .
    Lithium and Hydrogen are years away from being a mainstream energy source.
    Lithium will be just an interim solution until another technology break thru occurs.

  6. Doesn’t this show the government’s push to move households from gas heating and cooking to less efficient electricity (2kW of gas needed to produce 1 kW of electricity) is a hoax when electricity is unreliable and in short supply?
    You’ll need more than candles when the power fails on a windless, 35 degree night.

  7. Anyone who says that the risks of blackouts from energy shortfalls is due to the slow roll out of the renewable energy supplies is in no way an expert in any manner. The risks of such blackouts is due solely to the forced roll out of the renewable sources. Coal and gas remain the most reliable and effective sources of large scale energy generation in this country.
    The push to close down the “fossil” fuel power generators is 100% driven by political pressures intent on closing down industries that require low cost high quantity electrical energy.
    The claims that the GHG emissions from Australian power stations have any adverse effect upon the climate are based on deeply flawed mis and dis-information.
    The best thing that all levels of Government should be doing if they actually cared about the welfare of Australians and Australian industry is to stop the phasing out of the coal and gas power stations and actually get more into place as soon as possible.
    The marketing of nuclear as the cleanest and safest form of high quantity low cost energy needs to be brought into play as soon as possible as it will take over a generation to undo the idiotic push to demonise nuclear over the past six decades. That was and remains a purely politically driven campaign aimed at crippling western industry and society.
    While Chris Bowen is in any position of power and influence, there will be no positive progress in the energy sector towards a safe future for Australia.
    Remember that storage systems such as batteries and pumped hydro can only be viable when the energy bought in is done so at a cost no more than 80% of the price that it can be sold for. An example of the inefficiency is that a pumped hydro in the Snowy Mountains needs approximately 22 hours of pumping to get a reserve of 8 hours of power at rated output. Do the sums, this is non-sustainable. batteries appear to be having significant problems reaching their claimed lifetime of service. Their replacements will be a never ending cost.

  8. This article states “Energy experts and the energy regulator say Australia is at real risk of widespread blackouts this summer – and every summer for the next decade” . Well, start installing them now. The “leftie” climate idiots who want to keep a ban on nuclear power claim it would take at least ten years to get them in place so whats the difference? at least we will have cheap, reliable power available in the same time frame. As the little meerkat says “simple” clk

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