Energy networks brace for peak power demand this summer

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The reliability of Australia’s electricity supply is in question as demand on power grids is expected to peak over summer with more people staying indoors and working from home.

Research from Roy Morgan suggests that more than 4.3 million Aussies have been working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sparking concern that the energy networks may struggle to keep up with demand as temperatures begin to soar.

Former founding chairman of the Energy Users Association of Australia, Peter Dobney, told the ABC that air conditioning has the biggest impact on demand, which may reach a tipping point during the summer months as households use more energy.

However, a report published last month by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) asserted that electricity supply forecasts would ‘withstand reliability standards’ across the National Electricity Market (NEM).

“It is great to see how industry’s investment in new resources improves the reliability outlook for this summer,” said AEMO Director, Audrey Zibelman. “While the outlook has improved, it is clear from last summer’s extreme weather events and devastating bushfires that summer readiness planning remains as important as ever to ensure we have all the tools available to mitigate challenges if they arise.”

Network maintenance and upgrades will still go ahead regardless of demand spikes to the grids, said Energy Networks Australia Acting CEO, Tamatha Smith.

“Electricity networks are continuously undertaking critical maintenance and upgrades to ensure safe, reliable and affordable electricity is delivered to customers. This summer is no different. Despite the pandemic, this essential work has continued,” she said.

Sydney electricity distributor Ausgrid stated that although social distancing measures have impacted energy usage habits, they’re prepared for any changes to demand.

An Ausgrid spokesperson said: “While residential consumption has increased as a result of working from home, business consumption has slowed down due to changed economic conditions. These changes to consumption are not expected to cause significant disruptions to our network.

“Reliable energy is essential for the community and economy of NSW, now more than ever with many people still working from home.

“Ausgrid undertakes regular load forecasting and prioritises work that will maintain grid reliability and the security of electricity supply going into the summer months.”

Last year, more than 200,000 Melbourne residents were left without power as grids buckled under extreme heat conditions. That came three years after South Australia experienced a state-wide blackout when severe weather damaged electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.

How to limit electricity usage this summer

Some simple changes to energy usage habits can help ease pressure on the electricity networks, as well as keep your costs in check. Being aware of where energy is consumed the most will help you crack down on using certain appliances, which tend to make up the bulk of electricity bills. We’ve put together some prices below of how much it’ll cost to run some of those power-draining culprits.

Air Conditioning Running Costs

Here are air conditioner running costs to cool a large room between 40 and 60 square meters using a 4-6kW system. We’ve calculated these figures using a specific set of assumptions, so use this as a general guide only.

State Climate Zone^ Average Energy Consumption Estimate Weekly Cost
Brisbane Hot 1,284kWh $5.46
Sydney Average 438kWh $2.16
Adelaide Average 438kWh $2.91
Melbourne Cold 279kWh $1.31
Hobart Cold 279kWh $1.58
Canberra Cold 279kWh $1.21
Source: www.canstar.com.au – 17/09/2020. Average energy consumption figures based on reverse cycle, non-ducted, single split system air conditioners listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database. Capacity based on rated cooling capacity at 35°C. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage costs – 25.6 c/kWh in Sydney, 24.4 c/kWh in Melbourne, 22.1 c/kWh in Brisbane, 34.6 c/kWh in Adelaide, 29.4 c/kWh in Hobart and 22.6 c/kWh in Canberra. Average usage costs are based on rates available for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh. ^Climate zones based on the new Zoned Energy Rating Label for air conditioner models imported or supplied after 1 April 2020.

Clothes Dryer Running Costs

Our data experts calculated how much it would cost to run a clothes dryer (condenser) with a 3 to 4.5 energy star rating and an average energy consumption of 211kWh/year. Again, these are estimated running costs, and prices may vary depending on usage rates and consumption habits.

State Estimate Weekly Cost
NSW $1.06
VIC $1.11
QLD $0.90
SA $1.40
TAS $1.19
ACT $0.92
Source: www.canstar.com.au – 15/09/2020. Average energy consumption figures based on 5-10kg clothes dryers listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database, which assumes 1 full load per week. Usage cost estimates based on average electricity usage costs – 26.2 c/kWh in NSW, 27.3 c/kWh in VIC, 22.1 c/kWh in QLD, 34.6 c/kWh in SA, 29.4 c/kWh in TAS, 22.6 c/kWh in ACT and 26.6 c/kWh Australia wide. Average usage costs are based on rates available for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh.

Dishwasher Running Costs

Below are the average electricity costs of running a dishwasher with an energy rating of 1 to 3 stars. Prices reflect cents per load. Costs are estimates and do not take into consideration water usage costs.

Dishwasher Size Estimate Cost per Load
6 to 8 Place Settings 13.6c
9 to 11 Place Settings 15.4c
12 to 14 Place Settings 21.4c
15 to 17 Place Settings 25.1c
Source: www.canstar.com.au – 22/09/2020. Based on average energy consumption figures per freestanding and built-in dishwashers listed in the Commonwealth of Australia E3 Program’s Registration database. Usage cost estimates based on the national average electricity usage cost of 26.6 c/kWh; based on rates available for an annual usage of 4,200 kWh.

Compare Energy Prices

If you’re worried about your bills over summer, then perhaps it’s time to review your current electricity plan. We list a range of deals from some of Australia’s leading retailers, so you can compare without the hassle of navigating multiple websites. Check out prices below.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Image credit: zhao jiankang/Shutterstock.com

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