The Victorian government has declared an energy emergency after Energy Australia revealed flooding last week had created significant cracks in the Morwell River Diversion wall which protects the Yallourn Power Station and adjacent mine site.
Victorian Environment and Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said on Thursday the diversion wall could “breach at any moment with very little notice”, and it was clear swift action was needed to stabilise the mine walls and to ensure ongoing energy security.
“We need to take swift action, and the best way to take swift action is declaring this energy emergency,” D’Ambrosio said.
“These measures will help to protect the Yallourn mine from flooding and ensure Victoria continues to have a steady supply of energy.”
The declaration will allow Energy Australia to undertake emergency works, without going through normal planning and regulatory approvals, and divert river water away from the site, relieving water pressure on the mine walls.
If the mine floods, the power station could stop operating or operate at a significantly reduced capacity, potentially for months.
Yallourn, which supplies about one fifth of Victoria’s power, has already been operating at a reduced capacity in the wake of last week’s storm and associated flooding but Energy Australia said it continued to meet demand.
“Yallourn’s generation output is being maintained at an appropriate level to help conserve coal while also ensuring that demand for energy continues to be met,” the company said in a statement.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said that despite the damage to the Yallourn mine and the impacts it is having on power generation there are no forecast supply issues for Victoria, due to low winter demand and the diversity of Victoria’s energy generation.
Victorian Greens deputy leader Ellen Sandell said the government’s decision to announce a state energy emergency reinforced the unreliability of coal and highlighted the need to move to more distributed renewable forms of energy.
“If the government needed any more evidence that coal is unreliable and we need to urgently transition towards more distributed, renewable energy, here it is,” she said.
“What a disaster. Coal is totally unreliable, and on its last legs, but both Labor and Liberals refuse to see it.
“It’s time governments stopped propping up coal and came up with a plan to end our addiction to it and support jobs and communities in the transition.”
The Yallourn Power Station was due to close in 2032 but Energy Australia earlier this year announced it would be retired by mid-2028 with the electricity retailer to replace it with a four-hour 350 MW capacity big battery.
Meanwhile, the damage caused by the storms which struck the state on June 9, continues to impact with Ausnet Services revealing on Thursday that about 3,000 customers would likely be cut off from power until July 10.
The transmission network service provider said restorations in parts of the Dandenong Ranges will take longer than expected with challenges including fallen trees, rugged terrain and in some cases severe damage to the network.
“Estimated restoration times for storm affected customers have changed,” the company said in a statement.
“We now fully understand the extent of the damage and the scale of the recovery and repair ahead of us. We now know that some repairs will take several weeks to complete.”
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