Energy emergencies

ACT households and businesses enjoy some of the most reliable electricity and gas supplies in Australia. Interruptions are rare and usually of a short duration for maintenance of network infrastructure. Energy suppliers must inform customers of planned interruptions.

Significant unplanned interruptions to supply, while exceedingly rare, can result from unanticipated or unpredictable events. They can be local or national (such as a major natural disaster damaging energy supply infrastructure). They can also include significant spikes in demand that exceed supply, such as when we have unusually high or low temperatures.

Liquid fuel supply emergencies

The Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) advises the ACT Government on potential or actual interruptions of liquid fuel supply, including any need for restrictions. Liquid fuels relevant to this section include: unleaded transport fuel, diesel, E10 (ethanol blended unleaded fuel) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It also coordinates with liquid fuel suppliers and retailers to manage adverse impacts.

EPSDD also advises on the Government's participation on the National Oil Supplies Emergency Committee (NOSEC). NOSEC provides advice to the COAG Energy Council on fuel supply and the management of a national liquid fuel emergency. NOSEC was established in 2001 and is guided by the terms of reference for the COAG Energy Council, formal Agreements between the Australian Government and State/Territory governments on the Management of a Liquid Fuel Emergency, the National Liquid Fuel Emergency Response Plan and the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 and Guidelines.

Commencement of liquid fuel emergency management legislation

The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 commenced on 11 October 2019. It establishes a framework for the ACT Government to prepare for and manage the unlikely event of a liquid fuel emergency. A liquid fuel emergency describes a disruption or likely disruption to the fuel supply chain that requires government intervention to ensure essential services such as police, ambulance, and emergency services have their required allocation of liquid fuel to continue to deliver their services. While disruptions in the fuel supply chain are quite common, liquid fuel emergencies are extremely rare.

The Act allows for the development and approval of a Fuel Restriction Scheme that outlines various fuel restriction measures which the Minister may implement to manage fuel supply if necessary.

The Guideline for the ACT Fuel Restriction Scheme is a policy document that has been developed to support the fuel industry and the community to understand of the ACT Fuel Restriction Scheme. It provides guidance on implementing fuel restriction measures if they are needed to manage a liquid fuel emergency.

Under the Act, the Minister can declare that one or more fuel restriction measure, from an approved Fuel Restriction Scheme, is in place for a specified period of time, with a maximum period being three months. The Act provides powers to inspectors to ensure fuel restrictions are complied with; penalties will apply for non-compliance.

While this is new legislation, the ACT already had powers to implement fuel rationing in the event of a fuel shortage under the Fuels Control Act 1979. The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 replaces the Fuels Control Act 1979 to modernise the ACT Government’s fuels rationing framework so that it can implement fuel rationing in a manner consistent with other Australian states and territories.

Responsibilities for fuel stations under the Fuels Rationing Act 2019

Section 10 of the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 requires ACT fuel selling businesses to provide the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) with the following details:

  • the fuel seller’s name and email address
  • the address and telephone number of each place where the fuel seller carries on the business
  • the kinds of fuel that can be stored at each place
  • the quantity of each kind of fuel that can be stored at each place.

Fuel sellers who are in business on 11 October 2019 (the day that that the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 commences), must notify the EPSDD of these details no later than 25 October 2019 (14 days after the Act commences). They must also advise EPSDD when any changes in their particulars, including the cessation of their business occur.

Any new fuel sellers must notify EPSDD of these details not later than 14 days after the day they start business.

Notification of these details can be made using the online Fuel Seller Report form.

These requirements are important to ensure the ACT Government is able notify fuel stations if fuel restrictions are implemented. There is a penalty of up to 50 penalty units for an offence against these requirements.

More information

Phone the Energy Policy team on 02 6205 6003 or email EnergyPolicy@act.gov.au.

Electricity supply emergencies

The Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) advises the ACT Government on potential or actual interruption of electricity supply, including the need for restrictions. EPSDD also coordinates with electricity utilities to manage adverse impacts. If an interruption is linked to the national energy market, EPSDD advises the Government by coordinating with other jurisdictions and national energy market bodies to minimise disruptions.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) operates the National Electricity Market and national electricity grid. One of AEMO’s responsibilities is to ensure our power system is reliable and secure. This includes working with other jurisdictions on emergency response protocols. During a major power system emergency, AEMO provides leadership and makes decisions that make sure industry participants are cooperating and coordinating with other jurisdictions.

Gas supply emergencies

The Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) advises the ACT Government on potential or actual interruptions of gas supply, including any need for restrictions. It also coordinates with gas utilities to manage adverse impacts.

EPSDD also advises on the Government’s participation on the National Gas Emergency Response Advisory Committee. The Committee, established in May 2005, maintains the integrity of the gas supply system during shortages affecting two or more jurisdictions. It has representatives from all governments across Australia, as well as gas industry and users. It’s responsible for:

  • ensuring that natural gas supply interruptions are managed consistently across the nation
  • advising on efficient and effective management responses, including use of emergency powers by jurisdictions, during major natural gas supply shortages
  • assessing risk and impacts of major natural gas supply shortage.

More information: National Gas Emergency Response Advisory Committee