SYDNEY • Residents in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) have been urged not to cook or watch television to save power as a scorching heatwave moved from the desert interior to the coast.
The state's Energy Minister Don Harwin asked residents to consider reducing their energy usage after work, reported Reuters.
"Rather than going straight home and turning on the television and cooking, (you might) want to consider going to a movie, going out to a shopping centre, keeping the load low, every bit like that helps," he told journalists.
The blackout threat for NSW has been downgraded, but residents are still being urged to limit their energy use, reported The Australian newspaper.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Mr Harwin added.
A paper mill, water treatment operations and Australia's largest aluminium smelter, Tomago, were among those that halted operations to conserve energy, with many industrial users required to do so under their contracts.
The Tomago smelter, which exports to South-east Asia, Japan and China, is the single largest consumer of electricity in NSW and is jointly owned by Anglo-Australian group Rio Tinto and Oslo-based Norsk Hydro.
A total fire ban has been declared for the entire state today and tomorrow. The temperature climbed to 47 deg C in parts of NSW and the Australian Capital Territory yesterday, while today is expected to see a record for the hottest February day on record.
DON'T STAY HOME
Rather than going straight home and turning on the television and cooking, (you might) want to consider going to a movie, going out to a shopping centre, keeping the load low, every bit like that helps. ''
NEW SOUTH WALES ENERGY MINISTER DON HARWIN
The extreme heat caused power prices to soar to an unprecedented A$14,000 (S$15,200) per MWh as power stations struggle to meet skyrocketing demand for cooling.
Weather forecaster Olenka Duma said a build-up of heat in Australia's interior was being pushed to NSW. "It was like the windows and doors were closed for a long time, and now a weather front has dragged the hot air here," Mr Duma, an official at the Bureau of Meteorology, told Reuters.
The intense heat and looming power outages have triggered a debate over energy security. South Australia depends on wind for more than a third of its power supply, and the wind died down at the same time as people started cranking up air-conditioners.
In the western parts of the country, residents are bracing for more wet weather ahead after days of unusually heavy summer rain.
Residents in Northam, about 100km east of Perth, have been told to get ready to evacuate due to rapid and powerful flooding in the Avon River.