South Australia has taken a significant step towards taking charge of its own energy future today, after new laws were introduced into State Parliament.

The laws, first unveiled in the State Government’s energy plan, will hand the Energy Minister the power to direct electricity generators to turn on when required, putting the interests of South Australian first.

The Minister will also be able to direct the Australian Energy Market Operator to control flow on the interconnector to Victoria.

The State Government is suspending standing orders today to introduce the legislation in the House of Assembly, where it is expected the laws will progress this week.

Once the legislation has passed both houses, pending the support of the Liberal Party or cross-benchers, the Government will enact the laws as soon as possible.

Background

The Emergency Management (Electricity Supply Emergencies) Amendment Bill 2017 will give the Energy Minister powers of direction over the market in the event of an electricity supply emergency.

Currently, such action requires a meeting of the Executive Council and assent from the Governor of South Australia to declare a State of Emergency. These legislative changes will streamline the process so action can be taken within minutes, not hours.

The new powers are a key component of the State Government’s energy plan and will ensure every possible measure is taken to maintain the state’s electricity supply in an emergency situation or when market forces fail. These powers are for use as an option of last resort.

On 8 February, 90,000 South Australians were load-shed because AEMO inaccurately forecast electricity demand in the system and, when they realised their error, did not have enough time to direct available generation to turn on. AEMO directed 30,000 customers be load-shed, but when carrying out that direction, SA Power Networks erroneously load-shed an additional 60,000 customers.

Had available generation been directed to turn on, load-shedding would have been avoided.

Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill

The National Electricity Market is broken. It’s a private market for private companies that puts profits before people.

We’re taking back control and putting South Australians first.

The events of February 8 told us everything we need to know about this broken market. Faced with the choice of switching off power to homes or switching on a generator, the market chose to blackout tens of thousands of homes.

Under these new laws, we would have the power to step in and direct available generation on within minutes.

Quotes attributable to Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis

For the first time since the previous Liberal Government sold ETSA, South Australians are going to have control over their energy supply.

Electricity is an essential service and it isn’t good enough for privately-owned companies or AEMO to turn off customers rather than turn on available generation.

The market won’t be able to make that mistake again. Once in place, this legislation will mean the State Government has the power to use every tool available to ensure the security of energy supplies for South Australians.