Power system security is the power system’s capacity to continue operating within defined technical limits even if a major power system element, like a large generator or a major customer, disconnects from the system.

System security relates to the technical parameters of the power system such as voltage and frequency and the ability of the system to withstand faults. Frequency and voltage vary whenever electricity supply does not exactly match consumer demand and uncontrolled changes in frequency can cause widespread blackouts.

For more information about system security please visit security: making sure the power system can be operated within the correct technical range.

The levels of system security services like inertia, frequency control and system strength are deteriorating as the generation mix changes. These services, once provided as a ‘by-product’ of generating electricity from coal, gas and hydro generators are not being provided in the same way, or in the same amount anymore.

Significant investment in new forms of generation has been positive in that it has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. But the types of generation that are being installed have different technical characteristics from the types of generation that have been retiring.

The system needs inertia, frequency control services and system strength services to continue to function securely – otherwise blackouts can occur. Unlike reliability gaps, that can be evaluated many years ahead of time, system security is binary – a power system is either secure or it is not.

 Deteriorating system security is an urgent issue that must be addressed.

We are working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to identify the types of services needed and considering new ways to value and procure the these services in the quantities required to keep the system stable.

The AEMC has already introduced a range of new tools and obligations to address the immediate system security needs of the transforming system. Through our Frequency control work plan  we are progressing further changes to the market and regulatory frameworks to maintain effective as the generation mix changes.

Even with these significant changes to improve system security frameworks in the last two years the AEMC is continuing to prioritise work to underpin a secure power system. The aim is to provide market and regulatory incentives for participants to invest in system security capabilities while maintaining appropriate safety net

Current AEMC projects to help keep the power system secure

  • Investigation into intervention mechanisms: A growing number of directions are being issued by AEMO to maintain system security. The increased use of directions can impact wholesale electricity prices, affect market signals to investors, and increase costs faced by consumers. The review will considers whether and what refinements are warranted so the framework to support system security in the most efficient manner possible.
  • Review of the system black review in SA in 2016: the review will address any remaining systematic issues arising from the 2016 system black event drawing on work completed by AEMO and the AER following the event. Specifically the review will issues relating to contingency classification and the pre-event management of risks to power system security; system restoration following the black system; market suspension, and arrangements to enhance power system resilience to high impact low probability events.
  • Intervention pricing rule changes: Rules to improve administrative processes related to AEMO’s interventions in the market, for example the way generators are compensated after a direction to help maintain system security or reliability.
  • Primary frequency control rule changes: Seek to adjust incentives for generators so they deliver the required amount of primary frequency response to support system security. One seeks to remove disincentives, one from AEMO and another from a Dr. Sokolowski seeking to introduce a mandatory PFC requirement into the NEM.

Find out more about what the AEMC has already done to make sure the power system can be operated within the correct technical range and kept strong enough to withstand faults and failures

AEMC’s system security and reliability action plan

This is part of the AEMC’s broader system security and reliability action plan. We are developing market frameworks which allow continued take-up of new generating technologies while keeping the lights on at the least cost to consumers.