How energy companies workers plan to keep the lights on during the coronavirus pandemic

Liddell Power Station in the NSW Hunter Valley. Picture: Simone De Peak.
Liddell Power Station in the NSW Hunter Valley. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Australia's energy suppliers are preparing to isolate key members of their workforces to ensure energy generation continues during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Origin Energy operates power stations around Australia, including the country's largest coal-fired power plant, Eraring at Lake Macquarie NSW.

Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said extra precautions had been introduced to protect those whose roles were critical to maintaining energy supply.

These include managing shifts and rosters to reduce contact between staff, restricting visitors to sites and health checks.

"Most of our workforce is now working remotely, and we've implemented a range of precautions to protect our people who continue to work in roles critical to maintaining energy supply," he said.

Eraring Power Station at Lake Macquarie

Eraring Power Station at Lake Macquarie

Two more control rooms have been added at Eraring as well as accommodation options in the event teams need to be isolated on site.

"This is an evolving situation and we continue to review the latest advice from the government and health authorities. We will consider further measures as appropriate," Mr Calabria said.

An AGL spokesman said site-specific pandemic plans were in place at its power stations, which include Bayswater and Liddell in the NSW Hunter Valley.

"Employees who are able to work from home are being encouraged to do so and those people whose roles are essential to maintaining generation will continue to work on site with appropriate support."

"We are restricting access to site and we are engaging with key stakeholders to ensure our workforce understands and supports these measures."

AGL chief executive Brett Redman has said the company was ready to help those who experienced hardship with energy bills.

"We acknowledge that many of our customers will be concerned about what's ahead and, for some, these concerns will be about how they're going to pay their bills," Mr Redman said.

"This is exactly what our hardship programs are there for."

He said customers on hardship programs would not be disconnected. Late fees and interest charges would also be waived for customers on hardship programs.

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Similarly, Origin Energy is offering payment extensions and support through its hardship program.

"This is an unprecedented situation and we are focused on protecting the health and safety of our people and the communities in which we operate, while maintaining safe and reliable operations," Mr Calabria said,

"At the same time, many Australian households and small businesses are facing considerable economic uncertainty and we understand energy bills can cause further stress at this time, particularly for the more vulnerable members of our community.

"We encourage any customers who are having trouble paying their bills to request a payment extension through our website or call us to discuss other types of support available."

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This story The power stations' plan to keep the lights on during lockdown first appeared on The Canberra Times.