ESCOSA IN THE DARK ON PORT LINCOLN POWER SUPPLIES

9 March 2017

A Senate inquiry into the Resilience of Electricity Infrastructure in a Warming World this week revealed that the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA), the licencing authority and regulator for South Australia’s power network, is completely unaware whether licence conditions of power generators are being upheld.

Port Lincoln has two sources of power supply – transmission lines coming from the north, and local generators. With both of these sources available, Port Lincoln is in what is called an “N” condition. If one source goes down, i.e. ‘N minus 1”, Port Lincoln should still have power. Senator Nick Xenophon has been told by concerned local Port Lincoln residents that the power station does not meet the 'N minus 1' licence conditions set by ESCOSA.

On 28 September 2016, when South Australia has its ‘black event', the transmission from the North was interrupted and the local generators did not work leaving Port Lincoln without power for three days. On 8 February this year, when load shedding was ordered because of a lack of available power in the network, the Port Lincoln generator was not available to provide additional power to the grid.

ESCOSA told the Senate Committee themselves that their primary statutory objective “is to protect South Australian consumers' long-term interests with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services”. Yet when asked by Senator Xenophon whether Port Lincoln can expect the lights to stay on tomorrow if there was a single failure, Commissioner Wilson responded “I cannot
answer that here.” 

"Despite the two major blackouts of 28 September and 8 February, ESCOSA has no idea whether Electranet, the company responsible for ensuring electricity supplies to Port Lincoln, are meeting its licence conditions. On that basis the local residents are right to hold serious concerns," said Nick.  

"What is even more disturbing, is that it appears from ESCOSA's evidence this week that they don't prosecute suppliers who don't meet their licence conditions, the very conditions that they set themselves. In simple terms, those suppliers aren't being held to account.”

"It's almost as though essential services are not essential”, said Nick. He is awaiting an answer to his question.

The transcript of Tuesday's hearing can be found here - http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Hansard_Display?bid=committees/commsen/65a59be3-025e-4fc7-a0ad-5454f30cc35b/&sid=0000.

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