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Legal action against wind farms disappointing and distracting

The decision by the Australian Energy Regulator to pursue court action against wind farm operators in South Australia is disappointing and will reignite misleading claims that wind farms were responsible for the events in 2016 following a once-in-50-year storm, the industry’s peak body said today.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the state-wide blackout in South Australia was the result of freak weather which caused a vast range of problems, including more than 20 huge electricity pylons which bent in half like paperclips.

“There were tens of thousands of lightning strikes and a series of mini tornadoes during the storm which ultimately plunged the SA grid into an unprecedented situation,” Mr Thornton said.

“Previous investigations by the regulator found a high level of compliance by market participants under these extreme circumstances. New rules for the operation of wind farms were developed by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) following the event, but they were operating as directed during the event, with a lot of extraordinary factors at play. This AER court action relates to highly technical and complex wind turbine settings.

“The wind industry has been working closely and constructively with the market operator and regulators to refine the operational settings of these plants. It is therefore unfortunate and disappointing that the AER has now chosen to pursue court action,” he said.

Mr Thornton said it remained unclear what – if anything – would be achieved by the court action.

“In its own investigation into the incident, the AER noted the commitment from all the wind farms involved to work together to restore power, then investigate the incident and take all appropriate steps to learn from it and stop it happening again. Given the remarkable nature of the storm and the incident, we supported this course of action.

“However todays court proceedings now create unnecessary tension between those who are there to oversee the system and those who are acting in good faith to ensure its integrity,” he said.

Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.