AGL Energy and its subsidiaries has been ordered to pay up to $6 million in penalties by the Federal Court, for breaching the National Electricity Rules. 

In proceedings brought by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), the Federal Court found in periods between September 2018 and August 2020 the AGL subsidiaries did not comply with dispatch instructions given to them by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in relation to frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) that they had offered and were paid to provide. 

The court found that “the contraventions arose from a combination of insufficient processes and practices and inadvertence, which resulted in contraventions over periods of almost two years (in respect of AGLM) and four or five months (in respect of AGLL)”.

The penalties also reflected the respondents’ cooperation with the AER’s investigation, and their admission of the alleged breaches before the AER commenced proceedings.

Her Honour Justice Button ordered that AGLM pay $3.2 million and AGLL pay $2.8 million for the breaches, and said, “The penalties reflect the duration of the contravening conduct, the financial standing and size of the respondents (and their parent company) and the importance of power generators being in a position to supply contingency in accordance with their offers, which is of vital importance to the maintenance of a secure and stable power network.

“The contraventions did result in there being less contingency FCAS available to respond to any significant frequency deviations and so raised the risk that power system security would be compromised in the event of a frequency disturbance. 

“This factor heightens the need for deterrence in respect of the respondents’ conduct. It is, of course, vitally important that power generators in fact be able to provide the contingency to which they commit.”

AER Chair Ms Clare Savage welcomed the outcome and said it was a timely reminder for generators as the market transitions to renewables. Ensuring compliance with offers and dispatch instructions is an ongoing and active responsibility for all participants in the National Electricity Market, and this outcome sends a message to all generators of the importance of providing accurate and timely information about their capability and availability to AEMO.

“FCAS services are essential to keep the lights on following a power disturbance in the grid and these services are critical during the rapid transition to renewable energy generation.

AEMO relies on compliance with dispatch instructions and offers to keep the energy market stable. Generators must be prepared to provide the back-up services they have committed to so AEMO can keep the National Electricity Market stable and secure,” Ms Savage said.

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