The Victorian Government is urging people to limit their power use, with the energy market operator predicting the highest electricity demand in six years on a day of scorching heat across the state.
- A unit at the Loy Yang power station has failed, putting strain on the Victoria’s power grid
- A fire at Bendoc, in far East Gippsland, flared to emergency level in hot conditions
- Humidity is expected to become oppressive throughout the day
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said government officials met with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to discuss the potential for blackouts after the failure of a unit at the Loy Yang power station in the Latrobe Valley overnight.
The station supplies a third of the state’s energy.
“That unit failed with no notice at all,” Ms D’Ambrosio, said.
“Today is going to be challenging. Coal generators can fail with little or no notice, as we saw last night.”
Ms D’Ambrosio said several factors were working against the grid today, including heat potentially stressing equipment, failures of “old” power stations, and Victorians using up too much electricity to stay cool.
She warned people not to pump their air conditioners.
“The single most effective thing that people can do is turn their air conditioners up to between 23 and 26 degrees Celsius,” she said.
“That is a very comfortable temperature for people still to be able to stay cool but also importantly reduce their power consumption.”
Victorians are being asked to reduce their energy usage between 1:00 and 8:00pm by avoiding using appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines and temporarily switching off pool pumps.
AEMO said it was not forecasting supply shortfalls or the need for load-shedding but said there could be blackouts.
“AEMO has contracted additional electricity reserves, however, should these be insufficient to manage unexpected outages of generation or electricity transmission assets, load shedding may be required as an absolute last resort,” the operator said in a statement.
“AEMO will try to give customers as much notice as we can, but this may not be possible.”
Strong northerly winds have caused delays at Melbourne Airport this morning and more are expected this afternoon, as gusty conditions force intermittent closures of one of its two runways.
Travellers are advised to check with their airline regarding delays.
Members of the construction union working on high-rise buildings in Melbourne were sent home before noon when the temperature hit 35C.
Emergency officials on alert for fire risk
The heat is already starting to build in Melbourne on the second day of a heatwave, with top temperatures in the low 40s forecast.
Melbourne is expected to hit a top of 43 degrees Celsius and 44C at Geelong.
By 10:30am, temperatures were already climbing with 38.1C recorded at Avalon.
A total fire ban is in effect for the Central and Western districts, with concerns about dangerous fire conditions.
A fire at Bendoc and Bendoc Upper, near the Victoria-New South Wales border, flared up overnight prompting an emergency warning as it burned about 10 kilometres away.
Residents woke to smoky conditions this morning amid fears the fire could flare up again when temperatures increase.
Conditions were cooler than expected overnight and the emergency warning was downgraded to a watch and act level.
Andrew Nixon, a spokesman at the Orbost incident control centre, said more than 100 Victorian firefighters were working on the fire plus personnel from nearby NSW.
“There’s a lot of heavy smoke in the air this morning,” he said.
“That may reduce our ability to have any air operations over the fire.”
The fire is closest to Bendoc Upper where there are about half a dozen houses.
Mr Nixon said the fire is still about 12 kilometres east of the much larger community of Bendoc, which has more homes, a pub, general store and post office.
“We’re pretty confident that if that fire does move to the west of Bendoc that we have the resources to deal with that,” he said.
Health warnings about humidity
BOM tweet Smoke remains in the east and cloud is billowing across the west
Health authorities are urging Victorians to take care in the very hot weather as the humidity increases.
Temperatures are expected to hover in the low- to mid-40s across the state, including 44C at Shepparton, 43C at Bendigo and 42 at Bairnsdale.
Diana Eadie from the Bureau of Meteorology said the humidity would become oppressive tonight and into tomorrow morning.
“It’s going to feel in some parts more like a build-up day in Darwin rather than what we’re accustomed to in Melbourne,” she said.
The Towards Zero race saw some of the world’s best sprint cyclists gather in searing temperatures in Torquay on Thursday.
Australian Brodie Chapman won the women’s race, smashing through the 104 kilometre course which took in coastal and rural parts of the Surf Coast.
At one point Chapman even poured water over the head of a competitor, a Chilean rider, to keep her in the breakaway pack as the racers struggled to cope with the trying conditions.
“It really comes down to some self-talk,” Chapman said.
“I know I’ve got these negative feelings on my body with the heat and exhaustion, but just tell yourself your legs are good and keep drinking, keep eating, breathe out.”
Ambulance Victoria’s director of emergency management Justin Dunlop said by following some simple advice everyone will get through the day safely.
He said it was important for people to check on elderly relatives and neighbours who may be heat-affected.
“Our message to everyone out in Victoria today is to plan your day, try to stay out of the heat, carry a water bottle,” he said.
Department of Transport spokesman Andrew Crook says even a few minutes in a hot car could be very dangerous.
“Never leave children or pets unattended in parked cars as those temperatures rise quickly to dangerous levels and just a few minutes can have tragic consequences,” he said.