SA’s Wind Power Debacle: AEMO Cuts SA’s Access to Victorian Power to Protect the Grid


SA’s plan to import electricity from Victoria a threat to stability: AEMO
The Australian
Michael Owen
21 January 2017

A plan for South Australia to import­ more baseload power from Victoria to ease its power crisis has been suspended by the national electricity market operator because of a “potential stabil­ity issue” linked to the state’s wind-reliant grid.

This comes as almost 60,000 homes and businesses were without power in South Australia on Thursday night, with 5000 still disconnected yesterday afternoon, after a storm caused the state’s fourth major blackout in as many months.

The storm was the seventh severe­ weather event since July to smash South Australia’s elect­ricity infrastructure, including the cyclonic system that contributed to a devastating statewide blackout in September.

The Australian Energy Market Operator, which has been investigating the statewide black­out, issued a notice to the electricity market of a “potential stability issue” when high power imports coincide with high levels of wind generation.

This had led to a review of transfer limits across the newly upgraded Heywood interconnec­t­or, from which South Australia imports baseload power from Victoria, and caused AEMO to “defer” a plan to gradually increas­e capacity. In the interim, flows from Victoria to South Australia will be limited to a maximum of 600 megawatts.

The September blackout happened after severe storms knocked out transmission lines and a wind-reliant grid could not cope with the sudden, large dev­iation in frequency, tripping the ­interconnector to Victoria that South Australia relies on for its stable baseload power.

South Australia’s Labor government, which has a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2025, encouraged the closure of its last coal-fired power station in May last year, as its renewable energy mix rose above 40 per cent.

Despite recent unusual weather conditions in which the state has repeatedly been battered by strong winds, heavy rain and lightning strikes, householders and business owners are increasingly frustrated by the extended outages as they pay the nation’s highest electricity prices and live with the most unreliable supply.

Many blame the Weatherill government, including high-profile business leaders such as BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who has said South Australia’s unreliable energy supply system was unacceptable and needed to be fixed, because it was affecting investment and jobs.

BankSA chief executive Nick Reade tweeted: “Power out again. Our resilience in SA to the slightest storm is next to nothing.”

Mr Reade told The Weekend Australian that “last night’s tweet was whilst in the dark reflecting on our collective challenge”.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there had been an “unprecedented period of devastating storms … that has caused widespread and repeated damage to power distribution assets from fallen trees and lightning strikes”.

As some scientists yesterday blamed global warming for more summer storms in southern Australia, weather bureau meteorologist Matt Collopy said the latest storm gave some centres their wettest January day on record, with several regions having their wettest January for more than 20 years.

Paul Roberts, a spokesman for electricity distribution company SA Power Networks, said that there had been “significant ­damage to the electricity network, partic­u­lar­ly for metro­politan area customers … we’re really getting unprecedented weather, it’s been crazy.”
The Australian

The only thing ‘crazy’ about South Australia is its power pricing and supply disaster, caused by its patently ludicrous and yet dogged attempt to run on a ‘technology’ abandoned centuries ago, for pretty obvious reasons.

The “potential stability issue” that caused the AEMO to reduce the volume of power flowing over the interconnector from Victoria is explained in our post: Why Weather Dependent, Intermittent & Unreliable Wind Power is as ‘Useful as a Chocolate Teapot’

Jay Weatherill wants to solve his energy debacle by figuratively throwing an extension cord over his neighbours’ side fence, tapping into reliable coal-fired power in Victoria and potentially NSW and Queensland. The interconnectors proposed will take seven years to build and cost more than $4 billion.

Weatherill is like that annoying, scatterbrained neighbour in a block of flats that is forever running out of basics like sugar and milk.

Constantly pestering his neighbours to cover his state’s power demand, whenever there is a total and totally unpredictable collapse in wind power output (whether because the wind is blowing too fast – due to so-called ‘crazy’ weather; or because there is simply no wind at all) hardly suggests a Premier with a grip on the task at hand.

The AEMO’s decision to curtail the volume of power flowing over the interconnector (an obvious attempt to protect the power supply in Victoria) is a pretty fair sign that Weatherill’s neighbours have had enough.

Why should Victorians suffer the same routine load shedding and blackouts that South Australia does, just because South Australia’s Labor government became obsessed with trying to run on sunshine and breezes back in 2002?

With local businesses and householders furious about an erratic power supply and the highest power prices in the nation, by a mile – and with his neighbours ready to quarantine the disaster to South Australia, Jay Weatherill is a man fast running out of friends and luck. But, as they say, you reap what you sow.


Jay Weatherill wants his neighbours to keep paying for the
next round, and the round after that and…

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Noddy Nobody says:

    The AEMO looks like it may be starting to do things right.
    In bad weather conditions SA should not be relying on long transmission lines, they should be on local generation.

  2. I hear, ad nauseam, the argument that the fragility of SA’s power network isn’t related to wind, but to “unusual” numbers of storms blowing over elements of the transmission network.

    What I seemingly never hear is the blatantly obvious: if you have a relatively small transmission system, where a limited number of high voltage towers from a few large baseload plants are in place, not only are the chances of a storm knocking out part of that network smaller, but it is quicker to repair the damage.

    Where you have a highly distributed transmission network, where many high voltage lines need to transit long distances from numerous wind farms, there is a much larger chance that storms are going to knock over parts of that criss-crossing infrastructure, and due to the larger number of lines downed, it will take longer to repair.

    Why does anyone wonder at the fact that such a network would be less reliable and more prone to catastrophic failure? Why are Vapid Jay and Snakeoil Tom not called to account on this blindingly obvious fact?

  3. This rule change was introduced at the request of Tom Koutsantonis to the AEMC last July. He knows that the stability of the SA grid is marginal when there is a large amount of wind generation and the rule change is to protect it in these situations. The limits do not apply when there is a shortfall due to low wind generation – in that case the interconnector capacity could be inadequate to cover the shortfall if the demand was high.

  4. Reblogged this on UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM and commented:
    More evidence of grid impacts from around the globe

  5. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Below a few articles from the past which helps to indicate how SA has found itself in the situation it is and its Politicians and advisors were careless in the self aggrandisement. It also shows that SA consumers have paid for upgrades already to the Heywood interconnector – now they are going to have to pay to either build a new connector or improve the Heywood one yet again – or build new base-load production facilities.
    SA could be major wind energy supplier: Premier
    Posted July 16, 2010 09:28:00
    A study of South Australia’s renewable energy potential says the state could export green power to eastern Australia.

    “It’s really us stepping in to fill a gap for the eastern states who’ll find it hard to meet that target,” he said.
    “I mean ultimately it’s good the environment. It’s also of course unlocking a resource that’s sustainable for the long term.”

    3.5.2010 Energy Matters
    At the opening of the Clean Energy Council (CEC) National Conference this morning, South Australian Premier Mike Rann announced guidelines for the State’s payroll tax rebate for large scale wind and solar power projects would be posted on the Renewables SA site later today.

    The rebate is equal to 100% of the total payroll tax paid in South Australia associated with the labour related to direct, on-site construction of new, large scale wind and solar energy projects.

    From:The Advertiser
    November 20, 2010 12:01AM
    RENEWABLE energy from catchments such as wind farms have pumped enough reserve power into the grid to safeguard Adelaide’s supply through the next two summers.
    Australian Energy Market Operator spokesman Paul Bird said South Australia’s supplies were more than ready for the peak period between mid-January and mid-March.
    “There is sufficient supply to meet demand and a reserve buffer for contingencies and other events,” he said.
    “The increase is a result of the ongoing growth, especially in the past six months in the amount of wind farms in the state.”
    He said the outlook was so promising that he predicted a surplus for both this and the following, summer despite an increase in consumer demand.
    More wind power is generated in SA than in all other Australian states combined and wind farms provide about 20 per cent of the state’s power.
    Mr Bird, however, could not rule out a return to load shedding if extreme conditions hit, such as the 2009 heatwave, because of a surge in demand for power.
    ETSA spokesman Paul Roberts said the utility had learnt from blackouts over the past few summers and was well equipped to handle any issues that arise.
    “Previous heatwaves have brought to our attention some capacity issues that we are now aware of,” Mr Roberts said.

    From:The Advertiser
    June 23, 2011 12:50AM
    “A large part of our success in building an international reputation for hosting wind investment has been our commitment to making the regulatory environment as certain as possible.

    Mr Rann said despite the wind farm decision, the Government would not be departing from its ambitious 33 per cent target.

    (This is in reference to Richard Paltridge court win re the Allendale East Acciona Project)

    by: Tim Lloyd
    From:The Advertiser
    September 03, 2011 12:30AM
    South Australia is absolutely breaking all the rules when it comes to windfarms. We are constantly raising the level of electricity generation from wind beyond the conservative norm and into pioneering territory, where we really are going to test the limits of wind power in a modern integrated economy.

    This is a great adventure because the naysayers would have us believe that the electric baseload cannot come from windpower, and therefore the pressure for baseload electricity, whether it be geothermal, tidal, fossil fuelled or nuclear, will continue unabated.

    The other side of the coin is that while wind and solar are variable, base power is not, making its strength also a weakness.

    The proliferation of gas-fired peaking power plants is testimony to that.

    As wind and solar power become more abundant, we are going to become more creative in the ways we can use them, and in SA they are going to become very abundant.

    From:The Advertiser
    July 05, 2012 11:00PM
    The Hornsdale wind farm, on land spanning 8km to 24km, north of Jamestown, would become one of the state’s biggest with 315MW of production capacity.
    State Development Assessment Commission documents show the application was lodged on October 26, just days after former premier Mike Rann relaxed wind farm restrictions.
    It was provisionally approved at a closed Development Assessment Commission meeting late last month.

    Wind gusts up to 100km/h across Adelaide fell trees and cut power to thousands
    by: Ben Hyde
    From: The Advertiser
    September 26, 2013 2:59PM
    ABOUT three-quarters of the state’s power demand was being met by windpower overnight as a front whipped up strong winds that felled trees and cut power to thousands.
    Twelve of the fifteen wind farms in South Australia were running at least 80 per cent of capacity at midnight as winds up to 100km/h swept across much of the state, according to data from the Australian Energy Market Operator.
    In average conditions wind farms run at about 30-40 per cent of capacity.
    Pacific Hydro General Manager, Australia, Lane Crockett said the company’s Clements Gap wind farm, near Port Broughton, run at about 90 per cent capacity from 8pm yesterday into this morning.
    He said modelling had shown that about 75 per cent of South Australia’s power demand was met by wind overnight.
    Mr Crockett said it was rare for wind farms to run at such high capacity for a sustained period of time.
    “It’s probably rare for it to happen for a long period of time,” he said. “When a front comes through it might last for an hour or two and then it would drop time.”
    Many of the state’s wind farms ran at high capacity until early this morning.
    Mr Crockett said the strongest wind gust recorded at the Clements Gap site was 97km/h.
    “At speeds around that the turbines will shut down for short periods to protect themselves,” he said.
    “Last night, some of the turbines shut down for five minutes.”…
    (Now isn’t this interesting considering after the State Blackout last September it was stated companies didn’t know there was a ‘break’ on the system when they reach high speeds also no major disaster with towers dropping and turbines shutting down all at once to protect themselves, also this was during the night when most people and industry were asleep)

    Electricity shock for powerless people
    The Advertiser Date January 15, 2013 Brian Robins

    TO OUTSIDERS and insiders alike the way the national electricity market operates can seem one of the marvels of the universe – not only in complexity, but in the way commercial realities can be distorted.

    For example, who would have believed that wholesale electricity prices could be negative?

    Yet this occurs frequently at night, when demand is slight but the wind is blowing. So, wind power is generating electricity even though it is of no use to anybody – there is no demand and what demand there is is under long-term contract, which means the wholesale price is not reflective of underlying demand.

    But the negative price does help to pull down average wholesale prices, prompting those looking at new investment to hold back.

    Last week’s decision of the Australian Energy Market Operator to back the upgrade of a link between the South Australian and Victorian transmission networks at Heywood looks unexceptional, in that it positions the electricity transmission network for future growth. But step back for a moment, and it becomes clear that what is at play is that SA households are being asked to foot the bill to upgrade the electricity network so that more electricity can be ”exported” to Victoria.

    This is great news for the owners and developers of wind farms in SA, since it will boost their profits, and it will also boost wholesale electricity prices, which will flow through to higher electricity bills over time.
    But if the beneficiaries are the owners of the wind farms in South Australia and power users in Victoria, then why aren’t these two groups being asked to foot the bill for the full cost of the network upgrades?

    Additionally, at a time of weak overall electricity demand – anecdotal evidence from power generators points to ongoing soft demand, irrespective of last week’s uptick due to very warm weather – the regulator has put its weight behind the ”gold-plated” upgrade option at Heywood, which will cost $107 million, rather than backing the cheaper upgrade, which would cost in the order of $40 million.

    One of the main difficulties with the electricity market is the collusion of vested interests sitting around the table when these decisions are made. Typically, few outsiders are present to reflect the concerns of the broader community.

    The recent Australian Energy Market Commission push to boost community representation during key debates is a step in the right direction. But the reality is that the electricity market is complex, replete with vested interests with deep pockets which are able to distort the debate in their favour. Few outside this circle have the time, or the skills, to get across the core issues at stake to be able to push back against the big end of town.

    One of the prime tenets of business is ”risk and return”. Yet in the electricity and gas sector, there is precious little risk and plenty of return – and what risk there is, typically of getting a forecast wrong, is explained away by pointing to changed conditions, with consumers left to foot the bill as the consultants go back to their spreadsheets.

    This is the case with those backing the Heywood interconnector upgrade: there is plenty of reward for negligible risk, since the project’s backers are guaranteed a return on any money spent.

    The maximum capacity of the proposed interconnect upgrade would only be used for a matter of hours a year, and would take some years for the level of demand to reach the planned capacity. For the network owners, this is of little relevance, since they receive a return on the investment from the time it is installed.

    But for those paying for the upgrade – electricity consumers in SA will have to pick up much of the tab – the money is spent upfront and will form part of their power bills for some time to come.

    As one of the largest locally owned wind farm investors, Infigen, put it: SA has a world-class wind resource which will play a significant role in enabling Australia to meet its renewables energy forecasts. But the key is getting this electricity to market, so it can be used by consumers in Victoria and New South Wales.

    The proposed Heywood upgrade will boost interstate capacity by 40 per cent and, while power could flow in either direction, it is readily conceded the flow will predominantly be from SA to Victoria.

    Consumers in SA could be forgiven for thinking the fix is in, since there has been no public debate, or pressure, to undertake a more rigorous assessment of the proposal on the table.

    Nothing has changed the story telling continues unabated.

    • Jackie Rovensky says:

      South Australia has been led down the path to destruction by both Federal and State Labor Governments; they have borne the brunt of their manic desire to be seen to be ‘world’ leaders. They have also been led astray by the international bodies who charged forward without due consideration of the effects with the UN demanding signatories to agreements which had not been thoroughly considered for effects they could cause.
      South Australia is not the only Australian State to fall for the ‘double speak’ of pressure groups and self-serving investors, Victoria, NSW and WA are heading in the same direction they are also in danger of becoming ‘basket cases’ hanging from the blade tips of Turbines.
      What is needed now is a Federal Government with the fortitude to take control of the situation for the sake of the Nation, what is needed is a leader who can take a stand and stop this demise in an instant, one who can take the jibes of the self-serving and manic supporters of a dream that has become a nightmare for this nation, and bring us back toward a Nation of advancement not self-destruction.
      What is needed is a leader who is willing to do this and face the inevitable short-term backlash from within and from the UN and see it through to ensure SA’s survival and the Nations prosperity.
      Come on PM Turnbull, you wanted the top job now do what is needed before it really is too late – stop the demise.

  6. Brian Johnston says:

    SA does not need to tap into Vic. base load power.
    If it were that simple SA would use it’s own base load power.
    Maybe SA did the wrong thing dynamiting that chimney

    When is everyone going to realise these wind farms are not producing usable electricity

    BHP has the funds to sue the SA government and they should
    Why won’t they?

  7. Michael Crawford says:

    With respect to Mr Koutsantonis’ gibberings, South Australia’s problem is an “unprecedented period of devastating imbeciles in charge”.

  8. The SA blackouts are probably in part an indirect effect of wind power. All good leaches know that there are limits to how much can be taken from victims, infrastructure maintenance in SA is probably limited by most of the acceptable price rises being taken by wind farms.

  9. Son of a Goat says:

    They don’t call Jay Weatherill “The Prince of Darkness” for nothing.

    I see Engie whilst its closing Hazelwood coal generator in Victoria amongst much fanfare from the greens has just recently been given permission by the state govt to increase the capacity of its Loy Yang B coal fired plant also in Victoria. Just maybe someone is starting to talk some common sense despite the utterings of its energy minister The Gilded Lily.

    Turnbull has just got to bite the bullet and scrap the RET or alter it to include thermal generators. Malcolm you just cant let a civilised economy be turned into a basket case due to the unreliability of its power supply.

    Its time to act and act now.

  10. Walter Plinge says:

    And it’s going to get worse when Hazelwood closes. There’ll be less Victorian baseload power to share around. SA can expect to get cut off more frequently.

  11. Reblogged this on Wolsten.

  12. Is there a way to monitor the amount of electrcity provided by vic to sa?

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