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  • Rikki Lambert

Crews working to restore SA power in biggest outage since 2016

Maintenance crews continue to work to restore power to South Australian properties after weekend storms blacked out 163,000 homes and businesses while renewable energy production may need to be curtailed to cope with the damaged grid.

South Australia remains cut off from the national energy grid after weekend storms brought down a major transmission tower at Tailem Bend.

SA was hit with more than 423,000 lightning strikes, damaging winds and torrential rain on Saturday, causing widespread damage, with more than 500 reports of wires down and minor flooding.

In the worst blackout since the statewide outage in 2016, about 163,000 properties lost electricity supplies with just under 30,000 still without power by Monday afternoon.

The remaining disruptions were widespread and included areas of the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas, across the Adelaide Hills and suburbs and through the Riverland.

Transmission company ElectraNet said damage to the tower near Tailem Bend meant the state's interconnector with Victoria was out of action. "Until the damaged tower is repaired, power flows to and from Vic are constrained to zero," the company said.

That could require cuts to the amount of rooftop solar energy flowing into the system to maintain grid stability.

The Australian Energy Market Operator said it might also curtail some wind generation in SA.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said there was no shortage of power across SA and the ongoing blackouts for consumers were the direct result of storm damage.

He said the damage bill from the wild weather was still to be calculated and more information on that was expected over the next few days.

SA Power Networks said it had mobilised all possible resources and had brought in help from interstate.

"Rebuilding and repairing the network and restoring power will continue into Tuesday and possibly beyond," head of corporate affairs Paul Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks understood long delays were frustrating for customers but those still without power on Monday should plan for an extended outage.

With the State Emergency Service responding to more than 2000 calls for help, a snap meeting of the state's emergency management committee was called on Sunday.

No immediate action was taken, but a second meeting will be held on Tuesday.

State cabinet was also to be briefed on Monday by energy chiefs.

Mr Malinauskas praised the efforts of the state's emergency workers, who he said were "smashed" over the weekend:

"Most South Australians are inside when these weather events happen. Our volunteers are running towards their stations and their trucks to get out there and help people.
"Every time one of these events occurs and we see volunteers running towards discomfort and danger, we know how lucky we are to have them.
"When everybody has been tucked in their beds, they've been working around the clock."

Ongoing power issues meant about 50 schools were closed on Monday morning, disrupting some year 12 exams. The premier said they would be rescheduled as soon as possible.

While on the Eyre Peninsula, the storms caused rocket manufacturing company ATSpace to abandon a launch from the Southern Launch Whalers Way complex after damage to electrical systems on the launch vehicle.

Southern Launch chief executive Lloyd Damp said the company had infrastructure in place to manage storm activity but the volume of lightning strikes in the area was unprecedented.

As the clean-up continued, police urged motorists across the state to take care with traffic lights in some areas impacted by ongoing blackouts.

In the 2016 statewide blackout, storms damaged major transmission lines in the state's mid-north which tripped most of the SA power grid, blacking out about 850,000 properties. It was a flashpoint for the then Labor government with the Liberal opposition making sufficient headway on the government's energy policy to briefly win government for one term.


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