POWER blackouts could hit Victoria again this summer if there is a repeat of January and February's extreme weather conditions, electricity suppliers have warned.
A spokesman for Australia's national power industry body, Australian Energy Market Operator, said Victoria had enough power to cope with average summer temperatures, but would struggle if the extreme conditions experienced last summer were repeated.
Melbourne was thrown into chaos in January when more than 100,000 homes and businesses lost power as soaring temperatures threw the electricity grid into meltdown.
Paul Bird, spokesman for the energy market operator, said Melbourne had enough power to meet demand and have some in reserve if the extreme temperatures were not repeated. "Based on the projections for this summer … there is sufficient supply to meet that demand level, but it is dependent on how many extreme days we get," he said.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Scott Williams said there was a slightly-above-average chance Melbourne would have a hotter summer than normal this year. "The probability of being above the average is a little bit elevated for this summer … about 55 per cent probability of being above average, according to the latest climatological estimate," he said.
But he said a repeat of last year's blistering temperatures was unlikely. "It was an extraordinary event last year, both the one-off day [Black Saturday] and the heatwave set new 155-year records, so the probability of that happening again the very next year is extremely small."
In late January, Melbourne recorded its only run of three days in a row of temperatures above 43 degrees, and on Black Saturday, February 7, its highest ever city temperature of 46.4 degrees. The temperatures and increased use of air conditioners saw Victoria smash its electricity use record from 9818 megawatts to 10,494 on January 29.
Victoria's electricity demand is increasing by 3 per cent a year as the population soars - up by 1800 a week - and air conditioner use increases.
Opposition energy spokesman Michael O'Brien said: "The Brumby Government has already said that it expects this year to be as bad as last year in terms of fire risk, which suggests equally high temperatures. This means the Government has an obligation now to guarantee that Victorians will have a reliable electricity supply this summer.
"Last summer we saw the fruits of this Government's failures with widespread blackouts and widespread public transport disasters.
"Given the experiences of last summer, the Government can't say it hasn't been warned about what we face this summer," he said.
Energy Minister Peter Bachelor declined to discuss Melbourne's power supply.
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