Asia Minute: Australia’s largest state is wrestling with an energy crisis
Hawaiʻi is making progress on reducing its reliance on fossil fuels to produce electricity. But in Australia, most electricity is still produced using coal. And that’s leading to some complications this week.
Nearly a third of Australia’s population is being asked to cut back on electricity use.
Last week, the country’s Energy Minister asked people living in the state of New South Wales to not use electricity from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day “if they have a choice.”
About 8 million people live in New South Wales. It’s the most populous state in the country — and home to Sydney, the country’s largest city.
That request is the latest development in a slow-moving energy crisis that has picked up urgency over the last few weeks.
There are several factors at work.
An economy coming out of the pandemic has increased demand, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine has reduced the sources of energy on global markets — pushing up prices.
And then there’s coal.
According to government figures, Australia gets nearly two-thirds of its electricity from coal — and many of the country’s aging coal plants have been knocked offline by technical outages.
Last week, authorities suspended the country’s wholesale electricity market — which was set up to match supply and demand but which has been distorted by energy shortfalls.
As for turning off the lights in New South Wales, the Energy Minister says the power grid will be under “significant pressure,” but he also says he’s “confident” that blackouts can be avoided.