Pelican Point power station faces suit over SA blackout

Pelican Point
The Pelican Point gas-fired power station in South Australia. Image: Wikipedia/Peripitus

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against Pelican Point Power Limited (Pelican Point) for alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules (NER).

The AER alleges that, for a number of months prior to February 8, 2017, Pelican Point failed to disclose to AEMO complete information about the physical plant capability at Pelican Point Power Station that could be made available on that day with 24 hours’ notice.

On February 8, 2017, South Australia was experiencing heat wave conditions which resulted in high customer demand and reduced generation capacity. In the late afternoon, the power system in the region was not in a secure operating state for over 30 minutes.

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AEMO declared an actual “Lack of Reserve Level 3” event and directed an interruption of customer supply in order to restore power system security.

In reality, power was cut to 90,000 homes. AEMO ordered the operator to load shed to take about 30,000 users off the network, but a computer glitch meant power was cut to 90,000.

“The AER alleges that Pelican Point did not disclose to AEMO that one of the generators at its Pelican Point Power Station was capable of being made available on 24 hours’ notice,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.

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“We allege that until late in the afternoon of February 8, 2017, AEMO was unaware it had the ability to issue a direction to Pelican Point to make the full capacity of Pelican Point power station available. As a result, AEMO’s ability to manage power system security was impaired.

“Accurate generator capacity information is critical for AEMO to manage power system security including, if necessary, by issuing directions.

“As we head into summer, it is important that generators provide AEMO with timely and accurate information about their capability to ensure that AEMO can manage system security and keep the lights on for Australian consumers and businesses.” The AER is seeking declarations, penalties and costs.