The SA blackout: the findings are in

Friday, 17 February, 2017

A report into the South Australian blackout on 8 February has been released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The report finds that in the lead-up to the event, demand was higher than forecast, wind generation was lower than forecast and thermal capacity was reduced due to forced outages. Specifically:

  • Thermal generation was supplying 68% of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 81% of its capacity and producing at near its highest point for the day.
  • Wind generation was supplying 3% of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 6% capacity and at near its lowest point for the day.
  • Solar generation was supplying 5% of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 22% of its capacity and producing at less than a third of its peak for the day.
  • Interconnectors were supplying the balance of power into South Australia (24%) and were operating at 93% of its capacity.

The operator had contacted generators to explore options to increase supply, but it soon became apparent that there was insufficient generation to meet demand and load shedding became the only option to restore system security.

At 6.03 pm, AEMO directed South Australian transmission company ElectraNet to interrupt 100 MW of customer supply to restore system security and avoid the risk of a wider scale disruption. However, the actual load shedding was considerably higher by the local network operator — approximately 300 MW.

SA Power Networks has now confirmed that the additional load shedding was the result of a software error, the cause of which it is continuing to investigate. At 6.30 pm, AEMO directed load to be restored.

AEMO used the report’s release to call for a united approach to managing the energy transition in Australia, supporting the evolution of the National Electricity Market (NEM) design to meet current and future requirements.

“The complexities and challenges of managing short-notice generation capacity reductions amid high temperatures and increasing electricity consumption are real. And they’re here,” said AEMO’s executive general manager stakeholders and information, Joe Adamo.

“This transition to a reliable, affordable and sustainable framework is everyone’s responsibility. The challenges faced last Wednesday showed that we all need to adapt and evolve to manage the complexities of today’s market.”

AEMO said it encourages the development of new technology and the evolution of business models across the supply chain to provide a secure, low-emission power system, while at the same time managing the costs to the Australian community.

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