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Canberra
Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Darwin blackout report released

The findings of an investigation into a system-wide power outage that plunged more than 49,000 Territorians into darkness in November have been released today.

Following the outage that occurred on the Darwin-Katherine grid on 18 November 2020, Power and Water conducted a comprehensive and independent investigation as required under the System Control Technical Code and provided their final report to the Utilities Commission.

The major power disruption incident affected over 49,000 Territorians, and lasted for around four hours.

“Hardworking Territorians, families and businesses deserve stable, reliable and affordable power,” said Minister for Essential Services, Eva Lawler.

“The power-outage which occurred on 18 November 2020 and affected Darwin to Katherine power users was unacceptable and put down to human error from our third party supplier. These issues have been identified and processes have been put in place to make sure this incident does not happen again,” she said.

“During the course of the outage there were over 35,000 visits to Power and Water’s outage web page, which is equivalent to a six month period of business-as-usual. The team also responded to 3,552 phone calls, 226 emails and 406 Facebook messages during the course of the outage.

“I want to thank the dedicated and hardworking staff of Territory Generation and Power and Water Corporation for their efforts to restore power after the outage.”

The investigation outlined key recommendations to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future.

A number of actions have been completed and others are underway in order to implement the recommendations, the Minister said.

She said all actions were expected to be completed by August 2021, and Power and Water would provide regular updates to her until all actions are finalised.

The Utilities Commission advised that Power and Water’s analysis was “comprehensive and recommendations were sound”.

It said that due to a third party error, the gas supply through the APA pipeline infrastructure was interrupted to the Channel Island Power Station, which resulted in load-shedding to approximately half of the customers on the Darwin-Katherine grid.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Review arrangements with APA to include requirements related to APA informing Power and Water about the works that can inadvertently affect the supply of gas.
  • Review and improve the coordination of media and public communication of information during an event with Public Utilities Group member agencies: Power and Water; Territory Generation and Jacana Energy.

In order to prevent or to reduce the impact of similar incidents occurring the recommendations have been implemented, with the existing arrangements between APA and Power and Water having been reviewed to include the requirement for APA to notify Power and Water of the works conducted on its metering stations or gas pipelines that pose a risk to the gas supply, the Minister said.

Another key learning from the event was the need for better communication with customers.

From now on Power and Water will coordinate media liaison on behalf of the Public Utilities Group to make sure up to date information is communicated, the report stated.

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