How the bushfires, climate change and the energy market are connected

This bushfire season has had a devastating impact across Australia. Along with the unprecedented threat to life, property and the natural environment, the fires have also caused volatile and challenging conditions in the electricity market.

One such incident occurred on Saturday 4 January when smoke from bushfires in the Snowy Mountain region of NSW caused electricity to arc on key transmission lines, disconnecting supplies from Victoria. This created an emergency in the NSW energy market, and had the market operator (AEMO) urging people to reduce their usage to avoid a blackout. It also caused an unexpected price spike that lasted for about 2 hours from 6-8pm Saturday evening. Thankfully, a major outage was avoided, and normal supplies resumed on Sunday.

Bushfires and Climate Change

Scientists are telling us the nature of bushfires in Australia has changed, and that climate change is worsening these current catastrophic bushfire conditions. In other words, what we are seeing this summer is not ‘normal’. We also know that extreme fires will become even more frequent and more severe without rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This is why at Amber we recognise the urgent and critical need for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy. These bushfires, and other terrible examples of climate change in action, fuel our determination to create a Smart Energy Revolution as soon as is humanly possible.

The way we are doing that is by introducing ‘demand-shifting’ into our electricity market and growing it to a scale big enough to support a huge increase in renewables. Demand shifting is a remarkably cheap, untapped opportunity that allows you to be a part of the solution. It improves reliability, reduces power costs for ordinary Australians and helps move our country towards 100% renewable energy.

The way it works is simple. We shift demand for electricity away from peak times to times when plenty of renewable energy is being produced. Amber customers can do this manually, or through automated devices.

How you can help

This summer has already been incredibly difficult for Australia, and we still have several weeks to go. So, it’s worth noting there are things we can all do to ensure the lights stay on during high-demand days this summer, and even when the grid is negatively affected by unpredictable events like we saw last Saturday in NSW.

• Pre-cool your house by running your air-conditioner before a price spike and then turn it off for a few hours during the price spike.

• Make sure any non-essential appliances (like pool pumps) are turned off during a price spike or on particularly hot days.

• Try to run power-hungry devices like washing machines or dishwashers before or after a price spike, or before the heat of the day kicks in. If you can hold off until the next day, even better.

• If you can, turn off all power in your house on hot days and spend time in an air-conditioned public venue for a few hours (cinema, shopping centre, gym etc.)

• Watch out for our notifications and alerts which will inform you of sudden events in real-time.

Other ways you can help

Here’s a list of reputable emergency appeals you may wish to donate to:

Red Cross

Wires (Emergency Fund for Wildlife)

RSPCA Bushfire Appeal

WWF Bushfire Appeal


RFS (NSW Rural Fire Service)

Salvation Army

Photo Credit: SAEED KHAN/AFP