MELBOURNE- Australia's most populous states will face blackout risks from 2025 if new power capacity is not built in time to replace the country's biggest coal-fired plant, due to be shut that year, the energy market operator said on Thursday.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released an updated outlook for the electricity market to reflect a decision by Origin Energy in February to bring forward the closure of its Eraring power plant by seven years to 2025.
It said New South Wales (NSW), where Eraring is located, would face blackout risks from 2025, four years earlier than previously flagged, without new investments beyond existing commitments.
"The retirement of Eraring Power Station, without replacement investments, could lead to a reduction in the reliability of the NEM (National Electricity Market), particularly in New South Wales," the AEMO's head of system design, Merryn York, said in a statement.
New South Wales could have a reliability gap of 590 megawatts (MW) from 2025-26, while Victoria faces a gap of 330 MW from 2028-29 and Queensland a 770 MW reliability gap from the following year.
The update includes a commitment by Energy Australia to build a gas-fired plant, Tallawarra B, in New South Wales as well as a decision by AGL Energy not to go ahead with a gas-fired project since the market operator's forecast last August.
A number of transmission projects and energy storage projects have been announced but not finalised which could meet power requirements beyond 2025, but they are not included in the AEMO's forecasts of available supply.
The latest outlook comes in the middle of campaigning for a national election on May 21, with the major parties avoiding the climate wars that have been a key feature over the past 15 years.
However, a slew of independent candidates and the Greens are pushing for tougher climate action, including calling for all coal-fired plants to be shut within 10 years and a doubling of the government's 2030 target for emissions reductions.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul Editing by Mark Potter)