AEMO REPORT: Unified approach to power system security needed

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has released a report on its ongoing investigation into the load shedding in South Australia last Wednesday which left more than 40,000 homes in the dark in the middle of a heatwave.

At 6:03pm on Wednesday, February 8, AEMO directed ElectraNet to interrupt 100MW of customer supply to restore system security and avoid the risk of a wider scale disruption.

The report highlighted actual load shedding was considerably higher by the local network operator – approximately 300MW.

SA Power Networks has confirmed the additional load shedding was the result of a software error, the cause of which they are continuing to investigate.

At 6:30pm AEMO directed load to be restored.

In its report, AEMO called for a united approach to managing the energy transition in Australia.

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

“Energy transition needs co-ordinated planning and this is best achieved when we are all dealing with facts.

“The facts in this report outline that load shedding became the only remaining available option for AEMO to restore power system security.

“This action prevented the risk of damage to crucial infrastructure, which if impacted, could have had a prolonged, and potentially disastrous impact to energy consumers.”

Mr Adamo said AEMO supported the need to evolve the National Electricity Market (NEM) design to meet current and future requirements, and called for greater unity to address the growing challenges of today’s power system.

He said the challenges faced last Wednesday showed that we all need to adapt and evolve to manage the complexities of today’s market.

The call for a unified approach follows a similar plea by 18 of the country’s energy groups and businesses for political leaders to “stop partisan antics” and work together to achieve energy reform.

Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said the report confirms the complexity and fragility of maintaining energy security in South Australia.

In particular, the difficulty of forecasting and managing high levels of intermittent generation,” he said.

“That is why the Turnbull Government is focused on energy storage and ensuring sufficient baseload power in the system.”

The report provided a breakdown of generation preceding the event. At that time:

  • Thermal generation was supplying 68 per cent of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 81 per cent of its capacity and producing at near its highest point for the day.
  • Wind generation was supplying 3 per cent of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 6 per cent capacity and at near its lowest point for the day. Fifty per cent lower than the forecast 2 hours earlier and down 90 per cent from its highest point of the day.
  • Solar generation was supplying 5 per cent of South Australia’s electricity, operating at 22 per cent 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 per cent) and were operating at 93 per cent of its capacity.