Queensland hit by huge power outage
Queensland has been hit by a huge power outage with some 375,000 customers impacted from the Gold Coast to Caboolture north of Brisbane, and multiple coal power units said to be offline.
A spokeswoman for power generator CS Energy confirmed there was a fire in one of the turbine halls at Callide power station in central Queensland at 1.45pm this afternoon.
“As a result, the three units that were generating at the time went offline. We immediately evacuated the power station and called emergency services to attend site. At this stage there are no reported injuries,” the spokeswoman said.
A fire has broken out at Callide power station.
“We are investigating the incident and will provide further updates as they become available.“
Wholesale prices in the state spiked above $2500 a megawatt-hour mid-afternoon in Queensland, as distributor Energex tweeted that the duration of the outage is “unknown” and are set to head much higher in the evening peak. NSW prices were $18.56/MWh at the same time.
As of mid-afternoon prices Queensland wholesale prices are expected to surge to the maximum $15,000/MWh this evening for an extended period of time, according to data from the Australian Energy Market Operator. The incident sparked a mini-crisis of reserves across the National Electricity Market, with AEMO advising of a potential lack of reserve capacity on Tuesday evening in Queensland and NSW.
Energy advisor Energy Edge pointed to several outages impacting the system across the state, including on a transmission line from central Queensland. Four coal units at Callide generator are offline, while the Gladstone power station has lost three of six units, said Energy Edge managing director Josh Stabler.
AEMO advised that two units at Callide C had “tripped” at about 1:45pm local time but said it had not ordered any load shedding.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor confirmed the generation outage at Callide power station which resulted in a “tripping” of transmissions lines which lead to the widespread blackout.
“The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Australian Energy Market Operator, we’re working to investigate the impact on customers in regional Queensland,” Mr Taylor told federal parliament.
“Of course, emergency events like these are matters we take very seriously and we’re working with the market operator to determine the impact and the cause of this event and to restore power as quickly as possible to customers.
“Of course our thoughts at this time, first and foremost are with the safety and the livelihoods of workers both at the Callide Power Station – 260 workers at the Callide Power Station – and the many customers who rely on that power for their livelihoods.”
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said there was multiples crews at the Callide C site, with a 550m exclusion zone after staff were evacuated.
“Power to the station has been isolated. This incident is expected to be a prolonged event,” they said. “Residents and community members are asked to avoid the area.”
Mr Stabler said Stanwell Corporation has three of its units running in “bypass” mode where they can be used for recovery from a full blackout of the grid, while the fourth unit is offline for maintenance.
Generators in southern Queensland are not affected, while the Tarong power station is fully online, Energy Edge said.
Mr Stabler said the issues had wiped about 2000 megawatts of load from the grid, taking the state’s power demand to about 3500MW, likely a record low for electricity demand in the state.
Global-ROAM, another close watcher of the National Electricity Market, also highlighted the loss of about 2000MW of demand on Tuesday afternoon, which it said cut demand for power from the central grid to 3775MW.
The blackout added fuel to the mounting debate around the increasing unreliability of coal power generators as they age and as their operations are increasingly required to ramp down during the day as renewable energy takes over, then back up again in the evenings. The arguments counter those about the intermittent nature of renewable energy because of its dependence on the wind and sun.