Power company Engie pays $60,000 in penalties over alleged failures during the December 2016 South Australian blackout.
Power company Engie pays $60,000 in penalties over alleged failures during the December 2016 South Australian blackout. Tim Howard

Power company fined $60k over blackout

POWER company Engie has paid $60,000 in penalties for allegedly failing to follow instructions during a December 2016 interconnector failure when 200,000 homes were blacked out.

The Australian Energy Regulator alleged Engie group member Synergy Power failed to follow dispatch instructions for its Dry Creek gas-fired power station.

South Australia became "separated" from the National Energy Market for almost five hours in the early morning of December 1, 2016, due to a fault in the transmission link with Victoria.

About 200,000 homes and the Olympic Dam mines were blacked out as the Australian Energy Market Operator scrambled to try and ensure local power plants could meet customer demand.

Infringement notices issued by the regulator alleged Engie failed to comply with instructions from AEMO to increase output from three operating units at Dry Creek and later to reduce output.

According to a court-enforceable undertaking, after-hours communications arrangements failed and then there were problems changing the power output at Dry Creek.

Australian Energy Regulator chair Paula Conboy said the SA electricity market had not been in a secure operating state and AEMO had needed all direct participants to manage power system security.

"Compliance with these obligations is a focus for the AER and we will not hesitate to take enforcement action to deal with serious failures to comply," Ms Conboy said.

"This was a very serious incident that required all market participants to act in accordance with their obligations.

"The market needs to have confidence that generators will be there when called upon by AEMO. Failure to do so can compromise the reliability and security of the system.''

Ms Conboy said Engie had taken steps to avoid a re-occurrence the problems as part of an agreed undertaking.

The AER said the payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notices was not an admission of a breach or an admission of liability.

Engie controversially closed the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria last year.

Engie has been contracted for comment.