Power cut in the middle of heatwave
UP TO 60,000 Victorian houses and businesses lost power for short periods as "rotating brownouts" were ordered across the state during this afternoon's heatwave.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has revealed energy shortages over the next two hours have forced them to ask companies to start "load shedding" - a term to describe turning off the power in some suburbs to ease demand on the overall grid.
Chief executive Audrey Zibelman said that big energy users such as Alcoa's smelter were powering down to reduce stress on the state's grid but that it wasn't enough to avoid wider outages.
This meant that dozens of suburbs lost power for short periods, including in Melbourne's southeast, south, west and north, as well as around Geelong.
Ms Zibelman said it was hoped a cool change would come through some of the overheated parts of the state by 2pm, easing demand.
The cool change did eventuate, dropping Melbourne's temperature by more than 10 degrees celsius.
"The first thing we do is go into the reserves," she said.
"Once we exhaust the reserves, we really have to go into load shed to protect the system.
"The updated forecast is that the cold front is going to be coming in a little bit earlier, around 2pm, which will help us.
"It will give us some demand relief."
Ms Zibelman said the "rotating brownouts" limited the outages to a short period, before restoring power to bring "relief".
"Obviously public safety is our utmost concern," she said.
Victoria is also importing the most amount of power it can from NSW, South Australia and Tasmania.
"We may have to do more over the course of the afternoon as the demand continues to increase," she said.
"It's a really dynamic situation."
If not, then further brownouts would be needed.
Already, thousands of homes and businesses across the state are without power as the mercury jumped above 40C in the CBD.
Motorists are being advised that traffic lights throughout Melbourne and Geelong and being affected.
In some areas, Victoria Police and traffic management teams have been deployed to manage the issue.
"If you encounter an intersection where the traffic lights aren't working you must follow the same give way rules as you would at an intersection that has a stop or give way sign or line," a statement from VicRoads said.
Power supply has also been limited in areas around Victoria as power demand exceeds supply.
AusNet Services say power is being cut in some areas in a bid to protect key infrastructure.
A statement on the AusNet site states: "Power demand currently exceeds supply available from power stations.
"We have had to limit supply to some areas to ensure key infrastructure is protected."
DELAY THE WASHING, TURN UP AIRCON TO 24C
Delaying the washing machine or dishwasher cycle and turning up air conditioners could help keep the lights on during extreme heat this afternoon, the state government says.
Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said "all of us in Victoria can do our bit" to maintain a steady and reliable energy supply once the grid is stretched to capacity.
Ms D'Ambrosio said she was confident there was sufficient supply for Victoria this afternoon.
But the biggest risks of outages if conditions worsened or if bushfires struck would be between midday and 5pm.
Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said: "What I would say to all Victorians is think about what we can do or avoid doing that is heavy on energy consumption between 12pm and 5pm.
"Now that could mean if you are planning to do a load of washing or turn on your dishwasher that could hold off doing that until later this evening or indeed tomorrow. Think about turning up your airconditioning to between 24 degrees and 26 degrees Celsius. We know that even at those levels you can still have a very comfortable atmosphere."
Ms D'Ambrosio said the market operator had advised her that there should be enough additional supply brought into the system - mainly from big industry users lowering use in return for payments - but the risk was if conditions changed or bushfires caused problems.
The minister said it was unfortunate that the ageing coal-fired power stations in the Latrobe Valley were not running at full capacity.
This meant that emergency supplies would be called upon during the hottest part of the day.
Ms D'Ambrosio said elderly and vulnerable people as well as young children should "continue to do what you need to for your health and safety" but others should consider their energy use.
"For the rest of us who are more resilient we can all do your bit," she said.
"That could include of course businesses that will be operating during that critical period of 1pm to 5pm - please consider some of your own activities and provided it doesn't impact on your economic situation… please consider shifting the time of day you would otherwise do those activities.
"All of those things collectively make the difference between having load shedding imposed on us or actually being able to keep the power flowing so we can all continue to enjoy a reliable power supply."