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Angus Taylor backs Australia Energy Regulator court action against SA wind farms

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has backed Australia’s energy regulator taking four wind farm operators to court, saying wind farms need to be backed up and perform during severe weather.

Heavy weather left more than 850,000 homes and businesses in the southern state without power in September 2016, and sparked a national conversation about the reliability of wind farms in providing baseload power.

Australian Energy Regulator chairwoman Paula Conboy said today the AER will take AGL, Neoen SA, Pacific Hydro and Tilt Renewables to the Federal Court and alleged they breach the National Energy Rules.

Mr Taylor would not go into the details of the cases but said the AER was doing its job in enforcing energy rules. He also said wind farms were fine, but needed to be “properly integrated.”

“850,000 South Australians were in darkness as a result of that event part of the reason it happened, we know, is the wind farms were not generating as they should have,” Mr Taylor told Adelaide’s 5AA radio.

“People are going to bring wind and solar farms into the system, that’s fine, but they have to be properly integrated.

“They have to be backed up so that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, we have the power we need to keep the lights on, to keep the wheels of industry turning. And they have to perform.

“We expect those rules to be kept and the AER’s jobs is to ensure those rules are kept. And that’s what they are doing here.”

Announcing the court action earlier, Ms Conboy said: “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.

“These alleged failures contributed to the black system event, and meant that AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) 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,” Ms Conboy said.

The AER will allege each of the wind farm operations failed to ensure their power plants complied with performance requirements to ride-through tough weather conditions, and failed to provide automatic protection systems to deal with voltage disturbances.

A key AEMO report in 2017 highlighted the problems with South Australia’s high level of renewable generation, finding that control settings on wind farm turbines led to last September’s statewide blackout in South Australia.

AMEO found wind farm settings “responding to multiple disturbances … led to the Black System”.

This is despite then-South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill repeatedly insisting that renewables had not contributed to any blackouts in the
state.

A number of the wind farm operators have responded to the court action this morning. AGL said it would review the allegations against three of its wind farms.

“AGL has previously stated that it considers that it has complied with its legal obligations in relation to the events of 28 September 2016 but will review the allegations made by the AER and consider its position,” an AGL spokesman said.

Tilt Renewables today said it is believed its Snowtown 2 Wind Farm acted within the national electricity rules.

“Snowtown 2 Wind Farm believes it acted in good faith and in accordance with the applicable National Electricity Rules, and the company will continue to engage with the AER in an endeavour to resolve this matter,” a Tilt Renewables spokesman said.