Australia to lift electricity market suspension as prices ease
Australia’s energy market operator says it will lift its suspension of the country’s main wholesale electricity market as its power crisis eases.
The restrictions will be temporarily lifted on Thursday before a final decision is made.
In an unprecedented move last week it suspended trading on the platform following a surge in prices.
Officials also urged people in the state of New South Wales to conserve power over concerns about shortages.
The state – which has a population of around 8 million – includes the country’s biggest city Sydney.
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In a statement on Wednesday, the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) said it had “seen a clear improvement in market conditions” and that it would resume trading from 04:00 in Sydney on Thursday (19:00 BST Wednesday).
It added that it would monitor the market for at least 24 hours before making a decision to formally lift the suspension.
“We have seen nearly 4,000 megawatts of generation return to service since this time last week, and that means the risk of any shortfall has reduced markedly,” Aemo chief executive Daniel Westerman said in a televised media conference.
Australia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal and liquefied natural gas but it has been struggling with a power crisis since last month.
Three quarters of its electricity is still generated using coal, and it has long been accused of not doing enough to cut its emissions by investing in renewables.
In recent weeks, the country has felt the impact of disruptions to coal supplies, outages at several coal-fired power plants and soaring global energy prices.
Meanwhile, the demand for energy has jumped amid a cold snap and as Australia’s economy opens up after Covid-19 restrictions were eased.
All of this helped drive up electricity prices on the wholesale market to above the A$300 (£170; $208) per megawatt hour price cap set by Aemo.
However, that cap was below the cost of production for several generators, who decided to withhold capacity.
Last Wednesday, Aemo took the unprecedented step of suspending the market and said it would set prices directly and compensate generators for the shortfall.
It also asked consumers in New South Wales to “temporarily reduce their energy usage”.
At the time Mr Westerman said Aemo had “put the security of the grid, and keeping the lights on above everything else”.
“We asked generators to bid their plant back into the system – and that is happening more – giving us greater visibility of generation in real time,” he added.
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Violent Typhoon Mawar sets sights on Philippines, Taiwan and Japan after blow to Guam
The powerhouse typhoon is the equivalent of a very strong Category 4 hurricane as it approaches the northernmost island of the Philippines before turning to the north, continuing its damaging path.
Japan says scrambled fighter jets after Russian planes spotted
The country’s defence ministry says Russian ‘intelligence-gathering’ aircraft spotted near its coasts along the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan.
Japan scrambled fighter jets after spotting Russian “intelligence-gathering” aircraft off its coasts along the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan on Thursday, the country’s defence ministry has said.
One Russian aircraft travelled from Japan’s north down along part of its west coast, while the other took a similar route along the opposite coast and returned the same way, the Joint Staff office run under the defence ministry said in a brief statement.
“In response, fighters of the Air Self-Defence Force’s Northern Air Force and other units were scrambled,” it added.
There was no further information on the incident, which comes days after Japan hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the summit of Group of Seven (G7) – a grouping of rich nations – in Hiroshima city.
Japan has joined Western allies in sanctioning Moscow over its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and has warned of the threat posed by Russia.
Its latest security document, which once called for enhanced ties and cooperation with Russia, now warns that Moscow’s military posturing in Asia and cooperation with China are “a strong security concern”.
Last May, Chinese and Russian military jets carried out joint flights near Japan immediately after a meeting of the United States-led Quad grouping in Tokyo. India and Australia are other members of Quad.
And more recently, Moscow has carried out military exercises, including test-firing missiles, in the Sea of Japan.
Russia considers Japan to be a “hostile” country – a designation it shares with all European Union countries, the US and its allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia.
Tokyo had complex relations with Moscow before the invasion of Ukraine in February, and the two sides have yet to sign a post-World War II peace treaty.
Attempts to do so have been hampered by a long-running dispute over islands controlled by Russia, which calls them the Kurils.
France bans short-haul flights to cut carbon emissions
France has banned domestic short-haul flights where train alternatives exist, in a bid to cut carbon emissions.
The law came into force two years after lawmakers had voted to end routes where the same journey could be made by train in under two-and-a-half hours.
The ban all but rules out air travel between Paris and cities including Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, while connecting flights are unaffected.
Critics have described the latest measures as “symbolic bans”.
Laurent Donceel, interim head of industry group Airlines for Europe (A4E), told the AFP news agency that “banning these trips will only have minimal effects” on CO2 output.
He added that governments should instead support “real and significant solutions” to the issue.
Airlines around the world have been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with website Flightradar24 reporting that the number of flights last year was down almost 42% from 2019.
The French government had faced calls to introduce even stricter rules.
France’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate, which was created by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and included 150 members of the public, had proposed scrapping plane journeys where train journeys of under four hours existed.
But this was reduced to two-and-a-half hours after objections from some regions, as well as the airline Air France-KLM.
French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir had earlier called on lawmakers to retain the four-hour limit.
“On average, the plane emits 77 times more CO2 per passenger than the train on these routes, even though the train is cheaper and the time lost is limited to 40 minutes,” it said.
It also called for “safeguards that [French national railway] SNCF will not seize the opportunity to artificially inflate its prices or degrade the quality of rail service”.
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