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Resource-rich Australia grapples with coal power shortage

Low-carbon transition leaves fossil-fuel plants underinvested

Fuel shortages and breakdowns have plagued coal-fired power plants in eastern Australia. (Photo by Fumi Matsumoto)

SYDNEY -- Australia, a major supplier of coal and natural gas to the rest of the world, is itself facing a power crisis as malfunctions and fuel supply problems dog aging coal-fired plants that have taken a back seat to investment in renewable energy.

The shortage has been exacerbated by a wave of demand for heating in June amid a record early-winter cold snap. The Australian Energy Market Operator in mid-June shut down eastern Australia's electricity spot market for the first time since its establishment in 1998, only partly reopening it this Thursday.

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