Wind farm operators facing legal action over 2016 SA blackout

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The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against four wind farm operators for alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules (NER) in relation to South Australia’s infamous 2016 blackout.

Proceedings have been brought against subsidiaries of AGL Energy, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and Tilt Renewables in connection with wind farms they operated in South Australia.

The proceedings concern events on September 28, 2016, when severe weather conditions led to significant damage to South Australian transmission lines causing voltage disturbances. A subsequent loss of wind generation contributed to a state-wide black-out or black system event.

Approximately 850,000 customer connections in SA lost power on the day.

The AER alleges that each of these wind farm operators failed to ensure that their plant and associated facilities at the relevant wind farms complied with their generator performance standard requirement to ride-through certain disturbances.

In addition, the AER alleges that the wind farm operators failed to provide automatic protection systems to enable them to ride-through voltage disturbances to ensure continuity of supply, in contravention of the National Electricity Rules.

“The AER has brought these proceedings to send a strong signal to all energy businesses about the importance of compliance with performance standards to promote system security and reliability” AER Chair Paula Conboy said.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event, and meant that AEMO was not fully informed when responding to system wide failure in South Australia in September 2016.”

“Providing timely and accurate information to AEMO is critical in ensuring power system security and the effective operation of the wholesale energy markets.”

The AER is seeking declarations, penalties, compliance program orders and costs.

The AER released an investigation report into the blackout in 2018 and these proceedings are the culmination of a series of detailed actions undertaken since the event.