Over the past five months, there have been at least four large-scale power outages in Australia, with one in September 2016 affecting 1.7 million customers. As a result, GMB – the union for energy sector workers in the UK – is calling for urgent inquiries into power cuts arising from the switch to renewable sources from fossil fuels, so that it can apply the learned information to UK energy policy.
GMB National Secretary for the Energy Sector, Justin Bowden, offered the following expert comment:
"It is essential that all involved in energy policy in the UK learn the practical lessons from the widespread power cuts in Australia.
“There have been at least 4 major power outages in several states in Australia over the last 5 months, with one event in September 2016 affecting 1.7 million customers.
“Preliminary indications suggest that the transmission systems are not able to cope with the scale of power that has to be moved from one part of the country to another when renewable sources are not generating supplies at times of peak demand in the areas the renewable sources are located.
“The same changes from fossil fuels to renewable sources is taking place in the UK so it is essential that lessons are learnt from these power cuts in Australia.
“GMB remains very concerned about possible power supply shortages across the UK as a whole, at times of peak demand, as the fossil fuel stations are phased out before the new fleet of nuclear power stations is on stream, particularly on the one in eight days that renewable sources are not supplying energy to the grid.
“This concern is real and added to it are the concerns arising from regional dimensions and the capacity of the grid to move power for one part of the country to another.
“In particular, if Scotland closes Longannet and Peterhead fossil fuel power stations - as seems likely, and if there are technical outages at the two nuclear power stations in Scotland - is there enough capacity in the grid to supply Scotland when renewables are not generating power? It would seem therefore prudent to keep Peterhead open.
“This will become an even more pressing issue when the two Scottish nuclear power stations close and are not replaced. The new nuclear power station at Sellafield will be needed to put power into the grid on these days to replace them.
“It is essential that proper planning by experts takes place across the UK as whole to avoid the sorts of power cuts we are seeing in Australia.
“GMB is calling on all stakeholders to commit to enabling the experts to tell elected representatives what we need to do to keep the lights on while aiming to decarbonise the economy. The electorate will punish representatives who refuse to listen to the experts and fail to make the necessary investment to keep the lights on.
"Lobbyists and axe grinders can no longer be relied upon to maintain the secure power we need for prosperity and civilisation.”