Extreme heat in southeastern Australia has put the area at risk for catastrophic bushfires, health problems, and power cuts, according to authorities. Parts of New South Wales may see temperatures rise as high as 48 degrees Celsius in the coming days, leading officials to put total fire bans and severe fire warnings in place. With Western Sydney set to see temperatures rise to 44 Celsius on Friday, the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) forecast a record demand for power between 4:30 and 6:30pm, as well as possible blackouts in parts of the state.
Endeavor Energy said demand in Western Sydney could spike by as much as 50 percent. They said they were planning to put emergency crews on standby in the event of network failures.
The state was able to avoid a second night of power cuts Thursday, but with temperatures forecast to remain over 40 Celsius in much of South Australia, demand on the system seemed likely to remain a challenge.
90,000 properties across Adelaide and the rest of South Australia faced power cuts on Wednesday, when Aemo ordered SA Power Networks to reduce demand by 100 megawatts. Previous estimates had predicted half that number of cuts. In the wake of increasing frustration with the National Electricity Market, SA Premier Jay Weatherhill, said the state would take control of its own energy future.
“We are going to make our own decisions, we are going to take control of our own future and our own destiny. It will be thoughtful, methodical policy-making but it will be dramatic and it will change the system and give us reliable, affordable and clean power,” Weatherhill said Thursday.
Don Harwin, the NSW energy minister, said residents could save energy by taking steps on their own – setting air-conditioning at 26 Celsius, adjusting refrodgerator temperatures, switching off appliances, and turning off lights when possible.
“The NSW government is doing everything we can to ensure a power outage is avoided but we encourage the community to reduce their energy use where possible,” he said.
Shane Fitzsimmons, the rural fire service commissioner, encouraged residents in bushfire-prone areas to have evacuation plans in place and to use the organization’s website or the Fire Near Me app to keep tabs on the situation.
“If the forecast eventuates we’re likely to see catastrophic fire danger develop in some areas including the Hunter,” said Fitzsimmons.
Portions of Queensland and Victoria were also expecting temperatures in the low or mid 40s Friday.