No power for eight hours on hot, humid day

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

A week ago Territory Generation CEO Tim Duignan, in response to questions from the Alice Springs News about a power outage, referred to TGen’s “commitment to providing a stable and reliable electricity grid for the Alice Springs region”.

 

The NT Government owned electricity system is clearly not capable of providing that.

 

Yesterday all of the town suffered a blackout from early afternoon, and many parts of it were without power for some eight hours, including being plunged into darkness until after 10pm.

 

It was a hot and humid day but still under 40 degrees which will no doubt be exceeded in summer.

 

People who wanted to watch the Bathurst 1000 on TV missed out.

 

People who had generators started them up, using $700 equipment to keep their fridges going while the three year old  generators at Owen Springs power station, officially worth $75m but reportedly blowing out to $100m, were useless.

 

During the course of today the News will report about the causes of the blackout, what will be done about them, and what are the strategies are in place for switching the town to 50% renewables by 2030.

 

Many of the current problems are said to be linked to integrating solar into the gas-powered system and the use of batteries to iron our fluctuations.

 

The upgrade, initiated by former Chief Minister Adam Giles, and sanctioned by the current government, has now been in place for all of the three years of the Gunner Government.

 

We will be looking for answers from TGen, which makes the electricity, and Power Water Corporation, which owns the wires and switch equipment.

 

We will be speaking with the Electrical Trades Union, which last week predicted blackouts, and seek responses from NT Treasurer Nicole Manison (at left) who, on behalf of the people of the NT, is the sole shareholder of the electricity system.

 

 

UPDATE 8.50am

 

WAKEFIELD CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEW ON SYSTEM BLACK

 

There was a system wide outage which meant that power was out in the Alice Springs region yesterday.

 

Crews responded immediately and critical power was initially restored to priority areas including Alice Springs Hospital. Power was completely restored at about 10:47pm.

 

An investigation into the cause of the network outage is underway.

 

I have made it clear to the CEOs of Territory Generation and Power and Water Corporation that this is unacceptable.

 

Territorians deserve a stable and secure power system, and that is why I have called for an independent review into this incident.

 

 

UPDATE 9am

 

POWER WAS OUT IN THE CENTRAL DESERT REGION INCLUDING ALICE SPRINGS: TERRITORY GENERATION

 

Territory Generation is investigating the cause of the network interruption and cannot provide further information on potential causes until the investigation is complete.

 

Territory Generation is currently transitioning from the ageing Ron Goodin Power Station to the new gas-powered units at Owen Springs Power Station to service the Alice Springs community.

 

Ron Goodin Power Station will continue to be manned 24-hours a day for a period of time while the new Owen Springs Power Station is monitored for stability.

 

Territory Generation would like to recognise and thank the crews who responded to the outage to get the power back on as soon as possible and thank the Central Desert communities for their patience and understanding.

 

 

UPDATE 10.20am

 

ALICE NEEDLESSLY IN THE DARK AGAIN – ELECTRICAL TRADES UNION CALLS FOR HEADS TO ROLL

Electrical Trades Union members in Alice Springs have had a gutful of TGen’s incompetence as the town of 30,000 was again plunged into darkness.

 

The blackouts could have been mitigated or avoided altogether.

 

The union and its members have been proactive in telling TGen management that their systems were not fit for purpose and that they needed to have Ron Goodin Power Station (RGPS) on active standby for exactly these eventualities.

 

RGPS was prematurely closed and [the new power station at] Owen Springs was not adequately tested to ensure continuity of supply.

 

We have been urging TGen to complete required maintenance on RGPS. These requests have been denied and instead of facing a blackout extending minutes at worst residents had to endure up to 9 ½ hours in uncomfortable heat. TGen managers are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

 

TGen’s Chief Operations Officer, Grant Chorvat, and CEO, Tim Duignan, must be sacked for their gross negligence.

 

Alice Springs ETU members must be included on the government’s investigation panel, to ensure it does not end up as a sham.

 

Union members also demand:

 

• Immediate maintenance resources directed to Ron Goodin Power Station to repair identified in the out of service generation plant.

 

• Immediate repair of the water softening plant to ensure full generation output, currently restricted due to fouling of the engine cooling systems.

 

• Delay of the cold standby period of RGPS until Owen Springs Power Station can be sufficiently tested under real world conditions.

 

• Delay the removal of RGPS operations personnel from a 24/7 shift.

 

ETU Territory organiser, Dave “Strawbs” Hayes.

 

 

UPDATE 3.25pm

 

ALICE SPRINGS CANNOT AFFORD TO HAVE ANOTHER POWER CUT LIKE WE HAD YESTERDAY: ROBYN LAMBLEY MLA

 

It effects our businesses, our livelihood, our lifestyle, our health and our well – being. It has cost people money, put people’s health at risk and caused untold inconvenience.

 

People don’t want to hear about Independent inquiries or how “unacceptable” it is from the Minister for Essential Services, Dale Wakefield. We just need her to fix it.

 

No excuses, no spin, just tell us it’s not going to happen again Minister.

 

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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Local Thinker
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    Shaun: Spot on. I thought it was weird comment as well as I was out and about myself and didn’t feel any humidity.
    However, you forget the Darwin centric location and thinking of those making the decisions and these type of comments.
    Clouds in Darwin generally equate to humidity … so it must be the same down here as well!
    But apparently the clouds did initiate the blackout process as the alternative solar power generation source was compromised by them and couldn’t produce enough capacity!
    If the dependability of Alices’s future power supply is on clouds or no clouds from now on I might be moving interstate!

    View Comment
  2. Shaun
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I think Territory Generation might want to check the BOM weather observations for that day.
    It wasn’t humid as stated, the relative humidity was between 6-8% around the time of the blackout. Just because there is cloud it doesn’t mean high humidity.

    View Comment
  3. Surprised!
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    This fiasco has become quite concerning. This is the same government that financially penalises the IT provider, for not swapping a computer keyboard on time, yet has the audacity to allow an essential service to regularly fail, with no thought of compensation to the customer.
    Unstable and erratic power supply is becoming a major and costly concern for all.
    Interestingly in SA, they send a cheque by way of an attempt to recompense for loss of food and a form of apology.
    The NTG are far too arrogant for that and it is very disappointing, but we continue to accept and support incompetence.
    For how much longer?

    View Comment
  4. Peter Brett
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 8:50 am

    I appreciate the inconvenience resulting from the blackout.
    The South Australia state black event of 2016 provided enormously valuable experience and data from the problems caused, including its impact on traffic (lights) and communication systems (mobile phone towers, landline telephone exchanges and NBN nodes which did not always stay on line, just to mention a couple).
    The impact on any business reliant on refrigeration was often devastating, Port Lincoln being an extreme example whose electricity supply was not restored for days.
    The inconvenience and demands for explanations and legitimate complaints should not set aside the need for careful study of the event including identification of services which may have been affected but gone unnoticed.
    It is imperative that lessons learned be shared across the electricity industry to help with the transition to the new future of renewable energy harvesting.
    [That needs to happen] even if inconvenient truths [emerge] such as the impacts on system stability with the proliferation of small and less reliable electricity generators on a system.

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