GMB looks to power cuts in Australia for guidance on UK switch from fossil fuels to renewables

16 February 2017

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.

GMB is calling on the UK and devolved governments as well as Ofgem , National Grid and the energy select committee to urgently evaluate the lessons that should be learned from the widespread power cuts in Australia arising from the changes from sourcing power from renewable sources instead of coal and oil fired stations.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary for the Energy Sector, said, "It is essential that all involved in energy policy in the UK learn the practical lessons from the widespread power cuts in Australia.

“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."

As the same changes from fossil fuels to renewable sources is taking place in the UK, Bowden stressed the importance of learning from these power cuts in Australia. He says GMB's main concern is possible power supply shortages across the UK as a whole at times of peak demand, considering the capacity of the grid to move power for one part of the country to another.

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"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." On the one in eight days that renewable sources are not supplying energy to the grid, nuclear power stations will be generating power. Bowden states: "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.

Bowden continues, “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."