QLD energy bills won’t be impacted by Callide Power Station outage

After a nervous period for Queenslanders in the wake of the Callide Power Station blackout, it’s been announced that energy bills won’t be affected, despite its impact on wholesale energy prices.

Queenslanders were warned on Tuesday evening to avoid energy usage where possible and brace for higher energy charges after wholesale prices skyrocketed to nearly $15,000 per megawatt hour (MWh).

Energy Minister Mick de Brenni, however, has since assured Sunshine State residents that the financial impact of the outage was not great enough to be passed on to customers.

“There will be no impact on households as a result of this,” he said.

The outage, which occurred around 2pm on Tuesday, was predicted by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to cause wholesale prices to soar to $14,700 per MWh – $14,647 more expensive than the average cost per MWh last financial year.

While wholesale prices aren’t directly passed on to customers, this could have seen a hefty increase to many Queenslander’s energy bills, most likely through increased daily supply rates, as a means for energy providers to recover the spike in wholesale costs.

Thankfully, these costs, though still higher than normal, were not as high as originally forecasted, with many Queensland households reducing their energy consumption during Tuesday’s peak demand period.

But it wasn’t just the decreased energy demand on the network that saved the state millions. It was also reported that the use of rooftop solar and self-generated energy by residential and business customers helped reduce demand during the ordeal.

How solar customers helped save millions of dollars

Solar customers are being praised for their self-generated energy efforts during the blackout, which reportedly saved the state $6 million, according to Queensland Conservation.

Following the power system chaos, Queenslanders were asked to reduce electricity usage where possible in order to allow the network to keep vital establishments, such as hospitals, with power.

Between 6:30pm and 7pm consumers reduced the demand of electricity on the network by 900 MW, allowing the network to remain stable.

While bill-payers have been praised for their energy conserving efforts by switching off wherever possible, half a million households with solar have been recognised as the state’s backup generator.

In fact, many customers with both a solar battery and solar panels shared that they didn’t even realise there was a blackout until their neighbours told them.

Canstar Blue Energy Editor Jared Mullane said despite the unfortunate circumstances, this event was a real eye-opener to the advantages of solar, and not just as a means to lower energy bills.

“It’s great to see the effects of solar power and self-generation come to fruition during Tuesday’s blackout,” he said.

“I think this is a timely reminder for Aussies to look into how solar may not only help keep their utility costs under control, but also contribute to grid stability in times of need.”

The widespread power outage has since raised concerns around QLD’s reliance on aging coal fired generators – a huge political talking point of late. The state’s energy gird is currently about 80 per cent reliant on coal-powered plants.

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What happened at the Callide Power Station?

On Tuesday 25 May, South East Queensland experienced a widespread blackout from the Gold Coast to Caboolture after a fire erupted in one of Callide Power Station’s turbines. From 2:30pm, 477,000 homes and businesses on the Energex network lost power. Traffic lights and airport systems were also affected by the outage. Fortunately, no staff members were injured during the explosion.

An investigation into what caused the explosion is still ongoing, however CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills said plans to safely return the plant to normal operation is underway.

“We are in constant contact with AEMO and Powerlink the transmission network operator as to the status of our plant. With regards to the fourth unit C4, it is too early to say with certainty when it will be operational again, however based on currently available information, we have informed AEMO that the unit will be available in 12 months. As we know more, we will share this information,” Mr Bills said.

Power has since been restored to the station; however, the affected turbine remains out of action.

The Callide Power Station runs off two power plants. Only one plant was affected by the explosion. In this particular plant there are four turbines, three of which are set to return to operation by 8 June. It is unclear yet when the fourth turbine, affected by the explosion, will be up and running again.

Who owns and maintains the power station?

The Callide Power Station runs off two power plants – Callide B and Callide C – which are owned and operated by two companies, CS Energy and InterGen. CS Energy owns the Callide B plant and shares the Callide C plant with InterGen in a 50/50 agreement. The power plant effected during Tuesday’s outage was Callide B, meaning CS Energy are responsible for the ongoing maintenance and recovery of the power station.

Who should I contact if I lose power?

If you find yourself without power during a blackout you should contact your energy distributor. Restoring electricity to grids, poles and wires is the responsibility of the distributor, not your energy provider, which issues bills and looks after customer accounts.

Most distributors will have a power outage map available on its website for you to find out where is affected and how long it should be until energy will be restored. If someone is in physical danger or a powerline has fallen during a blackout, always contact emergency services.

Image credit: kamilpetran/Shutterstock.com

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