MP to question power authorities about blackout roster

19 Jul 2020

Posted February 9, 2017

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie wants vulnerable communities in her electorate taken off the roster of postcodes that could have their power cut to avoid a total blackout of the State grid.

About 90,000 South Australian homes and businesses lost power for various time periods on Wednesday night under “rotational load shedding” measures, including communities in the Adelaide Hills that do not have access to mains water or community wastewater systems.

Load shedding is usually a last resort measure by power utilities to manage electricity supply when demand outstrips supply, risking a total blackout of the system

Ms Sharkie said it was unacceptable to include communities on the roster that were in high bushfire risk zones and had to supply their own water through pump-operated tanks or bores.

“Fixing the State’s energy system is a long-term project but in the short term I will be doing my best to make sure vulnerable communities in Mayo are taken off what the State Government is calling a ‘random’ load shedding list,” she said.

“I’m talking about communities such as Longwood and Echunga that lost power last night.

“They don’t need power just for air conditioners but to run their pump-operated tanks and bores because they are not on mains water.

“We live in one of the highest bushfire risk areas in Australia and rural communities need access to water for bushfire protection.

“These are communities that need power to run aerobic sewage systems.

“During a blackout, they cannot use the toilet.”

Ms Sharkie said calls to the State Government and SA Power Networks today had failed to reveal any answers about the roster system so she would send a formal letter to Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis and seek exemptions for some postcodes.

“My office has been inundated with complaints from constituents about last night’s rolling blackouts and unfortunately they are facing the prospect of another sweltering night without power,” she said.

“They are not interested in the blame game currently happening between the Federal and State Governments.

“They want solutions and they deserve them.”

Earlier in the week in Federal Parliament Ms Sharkie questioned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about ensuring telecommunications during blackouts in high bushfire areas.

She said the PM’s response, to blame “reckless energy policies” of the South Australian Labor Government, for the problem was not good enough.

“I will continue to seek a solution to the problem of inadequate back-up power storage at mobile phone base stations and landline telephone exchanges,” Ms Sharkie said.

“In this day and age, and in highest risk bushfire areas, we should be able to guarantee telecommunications beyond four-hour battery storage.”

Ms Sharkie also echoed the call by NXT Party Leader Senator Nick Xenophon for the State Government to intervene in the SA electricity market by underwriting a new gas-fired power plant; and the introduction of an Emissions Intensity Scheme ETS.

“Nick was opposed to the privatisation of the State electricity system more than 20 years ago when he was in State Parliament but we have to live with the results today,” Ms Sharkie said.

“Building a gas-fired power plant would add real competition to the market and prevent price gouging.

“On Wednesday night there was a period when the price of power in SA was more than $13,000 per megawatt-hour when our eastern state neighbours was about $200.

“An ETS, similar to the scheme Nick advocated for with Mr Turnbull in 2009, when the PM was the Opposition Leader, would also provide greater energy security and lower prices.”

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