OFFICIAL forecasts for electricity demand in Australia’s eastern states will be slashed today, adding to the pressures on coal-fired power stations just days before the start of the carbon tax.
The Australian Energy Market Operator will today predict a 2.4 per cent fall in energy use for 2011-12 because of the closure of aluminium smelters, the massive take-up of rooftop solar PV systems and consumers using less electricity because of rising prices.
The drop in electricity use is the biggest since the national electricity market began operating in 2008 and is likely to lead to the deferral of new electricity generation projects.
“Investment signals for new large-scale electricity infrastructure are muted when compared to a year ago,” AEMO chief executive Matt Zema said.
The figures come after the Energy Supply Association of Australia said this week that there was uncertainty about the investment outlook for the sector because of mounting financial stresses, including a $4.6 billion carbon tax bill, soft wholesale electricity prices and uncertainty over future demand.
The ESAA said Australia would rely on existing coal-fired power stations for the next decade given the fall in electricity demand, but raised concerns about how increasingly stressed power generators would do this.