Demand-side supports the grid during bushfire emergency 14 February 2020

By Rando Yam and Zac Hardie

In Australia’s current climate of extreme weather and bushfires, businesses participating in demand response are playing an important role in maintaining system security and stability for all energy users. Demand response can also provide a quicker and cheaper alternative to new generation. 

Businesses suited to demand response programs range from agribusiness to hospitals, water corporations, retail shopping centres, data centres, industrial manufacturing and more.  

Businesses participate via a third-party aggregator who supplies their combined energy load to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) when called on in response to a grid need. 

There have been multiple, significant grid requirements from December 2019 to February 2020.

New to demand response? Read the Energy Efficiency Council's demand response 101 that Enel X helped to develop. 

A perfect storm 

From Thursday 30 January to Saturday 1 February, AEMO called on two types of demand response - both emergency and ancillary services via its Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) program and Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) – to support the grid each day. The cause was a combination of extreme weather and fragility of the transmission lines and network supply assets - particularly after bushfires, heat, smoke and damaging winds and storms.

In particular, on Friday 31 January, storms damaged six transmission towers in western Victoria, causing a trip to the main interconnector transmission line between Victoria and South Australia. This caused the grid’s frequency to drop. FCAS providers were called on by AEMO to immediately stabilise the frequency and avoid widespread blackouts. 

That same day, large parts of Victoria and New South Wales, which were already facing bushfire conditions, also experienced extreme temperatures that caused price spikes during the late afternoon and evening peak demand period. 

Over these three days commercial and industrial businesses also powered down for up to four hours via RERT. As just one example, Enel X’s aggregated capacity provided 30 MW to the grid. This helped to reduce the length and severity of the emergency situation when the grid was under threat.

Other recent events

At the end of December 2019, there were temperatures over 30 and 40 degrees across the NEM, causing immense pressure on the grid. This was exacerbated by widespread bushfire conditions, particularly in eastern Victoria, where there was unavailability of large generating units at Loy Yang, as well as softening availability from wind and solar farms during the peak evening period.

When the main transmission line between Victoria and New South Wales tripped due to the bushfires, the result was substantial loss of supply in Victoria and AEMO issuing a ‘Lack of Reserve (LOR) level 2’ notice to the market. 

While demand response capacity was impacted by bushfire hazards, as well as operational constraints given the time of year, a significant number of sites were able to respond to AEMO’s RERT activation, by powering down as much load as possible from 6:00pm – 9:00pm on 30 December. 

On Saturday 4 January the transmission line trip caused a separation event between New South Wales and Queensland and the rest of the NEM. As a result, the grid’s frequency rapidly dropped in both states. 

Enel X participated in three FCAS events, when the grid’s frequency dropped below its normal operating band. Businesses across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia curtailed load in response, helping to return the grid to its normal operating range. This also helps avoid generators tripping as a result of dangerously low frequency. 

Businesses playing a role in supporting Australia’s electricity grid 

Across all events, a combination of cold storage facilities, water utilities, data centres and industrial gas processors helped to provide crucial demand response, taking some pressure off the generators who were operating at an elevated output as they struggled to meet demand. 

We expect that additional demand response events will take place before the summer is over, particularly with the transmission tower damage in Victoria, which will take several weeks to repair.

About Enel X

Enel X is an energy management company dedicated to accelerating the renewable energy transformation, and is the only independent aggregator providing demand response and power flexibility services to commercial and industrial businesses (C&I) in Australia. 

Click here to learn more about how Enel X is supporting system security and reliability this summer.

Rando Yam is Manager, Flexibility Operations & Zac Hardie is Program Manager, Flexibility Operations at Enel X Australia & New Zealand. Rando can be reached at and Zac can be reached at