Rolling two-hour power blackouts on agenda for Canberra

Rolling two-hour power blackouts will sweep across the city under an emergency plan drawn up by ActewAGL, reported The Canberra Times (23/5/2007, p.1). The company had a hit list of suburbs that would be the first to be cut off.

Not enough power: "If there’s not enough power to go around, there’s not enough power to go around," the chief executive of ActewACL, John Mackay, said yesterday. "Canberra has never in its history faced power shortages as a result of not enough electricity … [but] it can happen. It happens all over the world." ActewAGL was also reconsidering building a gas-fired power station at Hume. The general manager of networks with ActewAGL, Michael Charlton, said the rolling electricity blackouts could be introduced this summer, but not before.

Emergency help: CharIton said if power blackouts were activated in Canberra, emergency services would be on stand-by to help the elderly and infirm cope without electricity in the summer heat. Hospitals would be the last to have their power cut.

Drought problems: Water levels in Snowy storages were about 8 per cent of active capacity, according to Snowy Hydro. That’s the lowest level since the scheme opened in 1973. The drought has also hit Australia’s coal-fired power stations, which provide base-load power to the ACT. They need water to make steam to generate clectricity. Power stations in NSW, Queensland and Victoria have been affected by the drought. CharIton said it would be NEMMCO’s call to cut power. ActewAGL would simply follow orders. Charlton said he "sincerely hoped" the plan never had to be activated.

Voluntary cuts an option: One way around the blackouts was if Canberrans could reduce their power use voluntarily. People might be asked to turn off their air-conditioning and lights in summer, including at work, he said. Mackay said with electricity supply dwindling, ActewAGL was taking a fresh look at the long-running proposal for a gas-fired power station for the ACT. "That is front of mind for us, I’m working on it at the moment." He said a gas-fired power station could be built at Hume "in the forsecable future".

The Canberra Times, 23/5/2007, p. 1

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