Energy regulator brings legal proceedings over wind farms for 2016 SA blackout

Legal proceedings have been brought against four wind farm operators in the Federal Court by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in the Federal Court for breaches of the National Electricity Rules, which they allege contributed to the statewide power blackout in September 2016.

Wind farms in South Australia under AGL Energy, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and Tilt Renewables have been named in breach of the rules by failing to ensure their plant and associated facilities complied with the generator performance standard to ride through "certain disturbances".

Sever weather conditions led to damage to South Australia's transmission lines causing voltage disturbances, and a subsequent loss of wind generation contributed to the statewide blackout.

About 850,000 customers lost power on the day, with Port Lincoln experiencing a three-day outage and much of the Eyre Peninsula going without power for longer.

The AER alleges the wind farm operators failed to provide automatic protections systems to enable them to ride through voltage disturbances to ensure continuity of power supply, which is in violation of the National Electricity Rules.

AER chair Paula Conboy said their failures meant the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) was not fully informed when responding to the system failure.

"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," she 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.

They released an investigation report into the blackout in 2018, the legal proceedings a result of a series of actions undertaken since the event.