Weather change impacts on power supply in Australia

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's top energy adviser on Thursday warned Australia could face more power supply interruptions related to changing weather patterns.

According to The Australian newspaper, the federal government will examine whether new electricity generators and networks should be built to higher standards.

Australian Energy Markets Commission (AEMC) on Thursday has found the number of "severe supply interruptions" could increase if there are more heat waves, unless measures to bolster the security of the power system are adopted.

The commission will review the technical standards that new equipment would have to meet.

This could, for instance, see assets fitted with more sophisticated protection systems if they are in bushfire-prone and storm-prone areas.

The Ministerial Council on Energy directed the AEMC to produce a report, after Victoria and South Australia were plunged into destroying bush-fires in January 2009 as record heat waves led to electricity outages.

The report found about 88 percent of interruptions to the power supply relate to equipment failures, such as when bushfires cause short-circuits or lead to heat damage. Only 12 percent related to insufficient generation or network capacity to meet customer demands.

Very high temperatures of around 45 degrees not only lead to an increased use of energy-guzzling air-conditioners but also increase the probability of equipment failures and the efficiency of gas- and coal-powered generators.

The Australian reported on Thursday that in setting the technical standards that govern the level of performance for generators, networks and customer equipment, the commission has also been expected to balance costs against performance, both of which are areas of extreme political sensitivity.

The report was released last week.

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