Warning Victoria faces severe blackouts

Not enough is being done to stop Victoria suffering blackouts as the closure of vital baseload power generation looms, the opposition warns.

The Victorian government is not doing enough to stop the state suffering severe blackouts in the future, the opposition says, after a decision to close a vital coal-fired power plant in the La Trobe Valley ahead of schedule.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) on Tuesday pointed to the closure of Yallourn ahead of its original retirement date putting pressure on the grid, unless new forms of energy were installed quickly.

The power station’s operator, EnergyAustralia, decided in March to close the plant four years early in 2028, citing a changing energy market and environmental advantages.

AEMO’s chief system design officer Alex Wonhas said both Victoria and South Australia could face an increased risk of blackouts as a result.

Yallourn accounts for 22 per cent of Victoria’s electricity and 8 per cent of the national market.

“The power grid’s reliability measure will be exceeded in both states in 2028-29 and 2029-30, unless there is further commitment of dispatchable capacity,” Dr Wonhas said.

AEMO said in August the declining reliability of coal plants and the looming retirement of the Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW had raised blackout risks later this decade, with the closure of Yallourn adding to those risks.

Victorian opposition energy spokesman Brad Rowswell called the findings deeply troubling.

“The Australian Energy Market Operator has stated that energy reliability will be at serious risk unless new on-demand generation is installed to replace the coal station’s baseload capacity,” he said.

“Labor brags about its six renewable energy zones, but doesn’t yet have a practical plan to get the power generated by these facilities into Victorian homes even as another major energy producing plant is due to go offline in just seven short years.”

The comments come at a time of upheaval for the energy market as the nation moves away from fossil fuels towards cleaner sources of energy.

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has repeatedly said she was confident the state had sufficient power to meet demand and believed an influx of renewable energy into the grid by 2028 would keep prices down.

The government last year committed $1.6bn to create renewable energy hubs across the state but Mr Rowswell said the plan wasn’t significant enough to meet demand.

He said the government’s plan to phase out gas across Victoria would create an energy shortfall.

“Labor has had 17 of the last 21 years to ‘make it work’, but they continue to leave Victorians in the dark,” he said.

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