Electricity, gas and petroleum emergency management
If South Australia experiences a shortage in electricity, gas or petroleum, restrictions are put in place to ensure the distribution networks can be stabilised and essential services can be maintained.
Electricity load shedding
While the electricity system is designed to minimise electricity outages, it is not possible to guarantee supply 100 percent of the time. Most electricity outages are due to local failures within the distribution network, eg a transformer failure.
If a large failure occurs, which is rare, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) can require electricity to be switched off to prevent the whole electricity system from becoming unstable and shutting down. This is known as load shedding. This can happen automatically, where multiple pieces of equipment in the National Electricity Market are lost in quick succession and protection schemes automatically shed load to restore the system to balance. Manual load shedding occurs when there is time to make selective choices about which customers lose power.
Electricity infrastructure in South Australia is owned by private companies. If the distribution, transmission or generation infrastructure is damaged, the operators of each system respond to the fault to restore power.
Gas infrastructure in South Australia is owned by the private sector. If the distribution, transmission or production systems are damaged, then the operators of each system will respond to the fault to secure gas supplies.
AEMO operates the short-term trading market, which has trading provisions to help manage gas shortfall events.
The Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy can ration gas if the short-term market is not able to manage the gas shortage. This ensures that gas is rationed fairly and equitably among the industry, power generators, essential services, and commercial and domestic gas consumers and that the gas distribution system remains safe and, where possible, operational.
In the event of a prolonged outage, a significant quantity of gas is available from a reserve stored underground at Moomba. Depending on the quantity stored at the time, this facility alone could provide enough gas to maintain supply to essential services and domestic customers for a few weeks.
The liquid fuel supply chain in South Australia is owned and operated by the private sector.
The state imports most of its liquid fuel directly from overseas as refined products. The remainder comes from interstate.
In the event of a severe supply disruption, the Government of South Australia may consider declaring a fuel restriction or rationing period under terms of the Petroleum Products Regulations Act 1995.
The broad goal is to ensure that essential users – eg police, ambulance, fire services, doctors – are able to obtain fuel during a shortage, with any remaining fuel distributed fairly and efficiently to the rest of the community.
In a national liquid fuel emergency, all states and territories have agreed to follow the Australian Government's operational framework for managing the emergency. This is outlined in the National Liquid Fuel Emergency Response Plan.