Unclear if wind power played role in SA blackout, report says

Updated October 05, 2016 17:11:06

SA blackout 'triggered by a weather event' Premier says Video: SA blackout ‘triggered by a weather event’ Premier says (ABC News)
Related Story: Power outages hit as storms sweep across SA

Former Clean Energy Council head Matthew Warren says the impact of wind power must be a consideration as the post-mortem of the South Australian blackout continues.

Key points:

  • Former head of Clean Energy Council says outage “triggered by a weather event”
  • Report finds there was reduction in wind farm generation in lead-up to outage
  • SA Premier accuses PM of “politicking” at a time of emergency

A preliminary report into the mass three-day power outage has been released by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The report says it remains unknown what role wind power played.

Mr Warren, who now heads the Australian Energy Council representing electricity and natural gas providers, said the report was the first step in the process of making the South Australian grid more secure.

“Renewables were supplying 70 per cent of generation in South Australia at the time of the incident and we know that they work differently to conventional thermal generation,” Mr Warren said.

“When you’ve got a major outage like we saw in South Australia with the transmission lines going down, we needed to find new generation quickly and technologies like wind can’t dial up in the same way that conventional generators did.”

South Australia and its 1.7 million residents were left without power on Wednesday evening following severe storms.

The report said severe weather, including high winds, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hail and heavy rainfall, resulted in multiple transmission system faults on Wednesday last week.

It said there was a reduction in wind farm generation at connection points leading up to the outage, but more analysis was required to discern what that cause was.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the report confirmed early advice that the outage was caused by a weather event, “not a renewable energy event”.

He said the Prime Minister was “politicking” at a time of emergency by blaming renewable energy, and accused Malcolm Turnbull of using the emergency to “lecture South Australians about the dangers of renewable energy”.

Mr Warren said the blackout was “triggered by a weather event”.

“The big question that we’re looking at is to what extent did the grid in South Australia cope with the cascading events that followed,” he said.

“Could we have, with the benefit of hindsight, done something better and smarter to reduce the scale of the impact?

“Renewables do work differently and they don’t do some of the jobs that we’re used to seeing from conventional generators, so we’ve got to be smarter about how the grid works into the future.”

He said those close to the industry were frustrated by the politics playing out, because there was not one single cause to consider.

He said South Australia was pioneering renewable energy internationally, which put the state at the cutting edge and meant problems were being solved in real time.

A power transmission tower damaged and lying on its side in South Australia. Photo: Damaged transmission towers near Melrose in SA’s mid north. (ABC News: Dean Faulkner)

Number one priority has to be keep the lights on: Turnbull

Mr Weatherill accused Federal Industry Minister Greg Hunt of “seriously promoting the return of coal-fired stations”, as a solution to a “problem that he’s defined”.

“Coal is the past. Renewable energy is the future,” he said.

“We remain committed to our renewable energy targets of 50 per cent by 2025.We remain committed to the national target of assisting the national interest by supporting the national renewable target of 23.5 per cent.

“These are the national interests that we intend to promote. Not not some backward looking policy which has no future.”

However, Mr Turnbull said energy security had to be delivered across all levels of government.

He said emissions had to be reduced in “accordance with international obligations” and power had to remain affordable.

“But the number one has to be keep the lights on and SA failed to do that,” Mr Turnbull said.

External Link: AEMO’s preliminary report into the SA blackout

Topics: weather, storm-disaster, storm-event, sa, adelaide-5000

First posted October 05, 2016 10:09:56

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