Around 500,000 households in Australia’s south-eastern state of Victoria are without electricity after the country’s biggest coal-fired power plant went offline amid severe storms.

Australia’s biggest electricity generator AGL Energy’s Loy Yang A power station, responsible for around a third of the state’s power, was forced to shut down on Tuesday afternoon local time after several towers along a major section of the grid network near Anakie, north of Geelong, collapsed during extreme weather.

The failure has resulted in 2.3GW of generation being halted, with more than 1GW of load interrupted. It is expected that the plant’s Unit 1 will remain offline, but units 2, 3 and 4 will be brought back online throughout the evening in line with safety protocols.

Victoria’s Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio confirmed on X, formerly Twitter, that approximately 500,000 households were without power late on Tuesday afternoon, but said later that around 50,000 customers had been reconnected since the initial blackout.

“Power line companies will work through the night to assess damage to sub transmission lines, zone substations and feeders. We hope to see more customers reconnected overnight with priority given to power-dependent customers,” she said, also warning people to “stay clear of fallen power lines and follow the instructions of emergency services”.

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By GlobalData

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, said in a statement early today: “Extreme weather has resulted in the physical collapse of six transmission towers near Anakie this afternoon, leading to widespread power outages across the state… Currently more than 530,000 customers are off power,” but amended this to 470,000 in a later statement.

“The Loy Yang A power station is in the process of being reconnected to the grid, and the number of power outages are expected to fall throughout the evening,” it added. “In areas with localised power outages impacted by the storm, crews are actively working to restore power to these areas, clearing vegetation to make the areas safe before replacing poles and mending fallen powerlines.”

The storm brought heavy hail and strong winds to Victoria and saw the temperature rapidly drop by 15°C. The severe conditions have also wreaked havoc on the state’s public transport system, with half of Melbourne’s 16 train lines either partly or fully suspended.

Public Transport Victoria warned passengers should allow extra time for their journey or defer travel plans, and “consider alternative travel plans, such as altering your departure time, or using a different mode of public transport”.