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Pelican Point power station headed for court over SA blackouts

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The Australian Energy Regulator is taking the operator of the gas-fired Pelican Point power station to court over Adelaide blackouts in 2017, alleging it failed to tell authorities it had spare generating capacity which might have avoided widespread load-shedding during a heatwave.

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AER announced today it was taking Pelican Point Power Limited to the Federal Court for alleged breaches of the National Electricity Rules.

The action comes just weeks after AER announced on August 7 it was taking separate Federal Court action against four SA windfarm operators over alleged failures connected to an earlier statewide blackout on September 29, 2016.

Months later, during a heatwave on February 8, 2017, power was cut to up to 90,000 homes and businesses as load shedding was ordered by Australian Energy Market Operator due to “a lack of available generation supply in SA”.

AER today alleged that, for a number of months prior to 8 February 2017, Pelican Point failed to disclose to the Australian Energy Market Operator  “complete information about the physical plant capability at Pelican Point Power Station that could be made available on that day with 24 hours’ notice”.

An AER statement said that on 8 February 2017, SA’s heatwave led to demand spiking at at time of reduced generation capacity.

It said that in the late afternoon, the state’s power system “was not in a secure operating state for over 30 minutes”, prompting AEMO to declare a  “Lack of Reserve Level 3” event and order load shedding, or deliberate, directed blackouts of various areas.

“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.

“We allege that until late in the afternoon of 8 February 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.

Pelican Point is owned by global energy company Engie, which rejected the allegations today.

“ENGIE rejects these allegations and will defend the claims,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The Pelican Point charges come after AER lodged Federal Court charges against AGL Energy Ltd, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro Ltd and Tilt Renewables and the operation of windfarms at Hallett, Hornsdale, Clements Gap and Snowtown over the statewide 2016 blackout.

“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,” AER said.

“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.”

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