While bushfires burn across several Australian states, authorities have sought to assure households and businesses that there are no imminent threats to electricity supplies, even as some out-of-control fires approach power stations and coal mines in New South Wales, while a unit of one of Victoria’s biggest brown coal power stations remains offline.
In Victoria, the operator of the Loy Yang Power Station, AGL Energy said on Friday that it had has been unable to get Unit 2 of the power station back up and generating in time for what is likely to be very high demand across the state, as it swelters through a forecast top of 43°C.
AGL said earlier this week that the problematic Unit 2 was due to return to service on Thursday, and start ramping up in time for a nation-wide heatwave, after seven months offline having broken down in May.
“While the generator work has been completed, an installation issue means that full generation will now occur over the weekend,” AGL’s executive general manager of group operations Doug Jackson said.
“I want to thank our teams who are working around the clock in tough conditions to bring the unit back as soon as possible.”
While in New South Wales, AEMO assured that there are no anticipated supply interruptions due to the impacts of the bushfires across New South Wales, despite several coal mines have ceasing operation as a precautionary measure.
A spokesperson for the Australian Energy Market Operator told RenewEconomy that it would continue to monitor the bushfire situation, including the approach of fires to the Mount Piper power station.
“AEMO is working closely with generators, network service providers and the New South Wales government to monitor and manage the power system during this period of bushfire activity within the state,” an AEMO spokesperson said.
“At this stage, there is adequate forecast electricity supply to meet anticipated demand in the region with no Lack of Reserve conditions forecast in NSW. AEMO will continue to monitor and update stakeholders on any material changes through our market notices.”
Fires burning throughout New South Wales had begun to approach critical electricity generation infrastructure, but power station and electricity market operators have sought to provide assurance that there is no imminent threat to electricity supplies.
A spokesperson for the owner of Mount Piper power station, EnergyAustralia, told RenewEconomy that the power station will operate with only essential personnel and the company will continue to work closely with both AEMO and the NSW Rural Fire Service.
The Gospers Mountain fire, burning to the north-west of Sydney, had moved within a “few kilometres” of the 1,400MW coal-fired Mount Piper power station.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told a press conference yesterday that firefighters were monitoring the movement of the Gospers Mountain fire, and that while a direct impact on the Mount Piper power station was unlikely, the situation was somewhat dependent on changing winds.
The Gospers Mountain fire has burnt through around 450,000 hectares of the Wollemi National Park west of Sydney.
Centennial Coal, the operators of the nearby Springvale coal mine, and the Clarence Colliery near Lithgow, which both supply coal the Mount Piper power station said they had temporarily ceased the production of coal as a precautionary measure, and removed staff from the site.
Workers had also been removed from the site, but NSW RFS and NSW Fire and Rescue teams remained stationed at each of the sites.
“We have not been producing coal at Springvale Mine (Springvale) for over a week and Clarence Colliery (Clarence) for the majority of this week, due to bush fire smoke entering the mines via the ventilation system, and as a result our workforces have been withdrawn,” Centennial Coal, executive general manager of corporate communications Katie Brassil said.
The Airly coal mine, located a distance away from the present bushfire locations in the Capertee Valley, continues to supply the Mount Piper power station, and the power station has remained operational.
While Centennial Coal believes the imminent threat to the Springvale mine has abated, the company continues to monitor fires around the Clarence Colliery, and reduced power supplies to both sites mean production will not resume at either mine until the full power supply is restored.
“As a result of the bush fires both Springvale and Clarence are currently operating on reduced power. Production will not resume at Springvale or Clarence until full power is restored and it is safe to do so,” Brassil added.
“Both sites have their own fire teams on duty and are well supported by the NSW RFS.”
“The threat to Springvale has abated and Clarence is out of immediate danger however; the later is still surrounded by fire. We remain extremely vigilant as weather conditions are forecast to deteriorate again over the next few days.”
The nearby Wallerawang power station was decommissioned by EnergyAustralia in 2014.