back to top

WTF Is Happening With Australia's Hellish Temperatures And Blackouts?

This is fine.

Posted on

If you live in Australia's south-east the last few weeks have been like living on the surface of the fucking sun.

Not only are Australian cities smashing temperature records, we're leading the world with our absurd, sweltering conditions.

All 15 maximum temperatures on the planet today are in Australia.

At the same time federal politicians are arguing about what sort of power the country needs to make sure we can run air-conditioners non-stop to get some sweet relief from the great southern hellscape.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

These two issues collided last week, when power was switched off in parts of South Australia at the height of the extreme weather.

In recent days the federal government has blamed the state's reliance on wind turbines and other renewables, while Labor is pointing the finger at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

It's led many people to suggest there's a real energy clusterfuck in Australia right now.

To understand just what's happening, start with this map. It shows Australia's power network, operated by AEMO, which is a maze of transmission lines and interconnectors criss-crossing the country.

When it gets really fucking hot, like it has in recent weeks, demand for power soars as people crank the air-conditioners and stay inside to watch TV.

Energy demand rising in parts of Sydney, C Coast & Hunter as temps soar - tracking on par with record peak day on A…

When demand goes up, states can share power to cover shortfalls in certain areas.

Qld power system despatching 1100MW to NSW now via interconnector with 1000MW in reserve 4 Qld. NSW wld have load shedding now without Qld

Like last weekend, Queensland stations ended up providing power to NSW to make sure the latter wouldn't endure blackouts.

In the most dire situations AEMO can start "load shedding".

According to AEMO: "Load shedding can sometimes be required when there is an imbalance between electricity demand and electricity supply. When there is a shortfall in the electricity supply, there can be a need to reduce demand very quickly to an acceptable level, or risk the electricity network becoming unstable."

At the moment, with the huge spikes in demand, there's not enough power being supplied into the network.

Wind turbines providing less than 4% of NSW generated power as at 4pm today. Rooftop solar is slightly higher. Coal…

Dirty coal is doing the heavy lifting in the system and renewable sources, like solar and wind, are at the mercy of the elements.

Which brings us to Scott Morrison waving around a mango-sized hunk of coal in parliament last week.

This is what a declaration of war against younger people and future generations looks like

Morrison and the federal government have blamed renewable energy for putting the Australian system at risk, insisting that coal-fired power stations and so-called new "clean coal" are the answer to the crisis.

But others, including respected finance journalist Alan Kohler, think the coal push is a con.

"By taking the low road in 2009 instead of the high road, and deciding to mislead Australians about the true cost of energy, the Liberal Party condemned the country to a decade of confusion and stasis on energy policy," Kohler wrote in The Australian on Monday.

Kohler told BuzzFeed News the blackouts are a result of the lack of certainty that's led to underinvestment in the energy network.

"We can’t hide anymore from the costs of coal because of scientists have laid it out to us.

"A lot of people are trying to say it’s bullshit, it’s all a scam and it isn’t correct but really we have to move away from that now."

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.