One of Queensland’s largest power stations was operating without required regulatory approval when it was destroyed by a catastrophic explosion.
Operators of the troubled Callide C coal-fired power station in central Queensland have been fined almost $70,000 for breaching the National Electricity Act, the Australian Energy Regulator has announced (AER).
The Callide plant still has two generators offline since a May 2021 fire was sparked by an engine room explosion, causing power outages for nearly half a million customers.
As part of a joint venture, state-owned CS Energy manages and maintains the plant, with both generators expected to be operational again from January 2024.
The AER fined CS Energy $67,800 for not being a registered participant with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) or not holding a valid exemption at the time of the explosion.
CS Energy has operated the Callide plant for several years, but only submitted an exemption request after the AER discovered the violation of the law.
She was granted a waiver last month.
The breach was discovered during the AER’s ongoing investigation into the events leading up to the May 2021 “power system event.”
The Mines and Energy Union said the fine was insufficient for what constitutes a very serious event.
“It’s remarkable that no one was killed,” said Shane Brunker, the union’s Queensland district vice-president.
“To discover that Callide was operating at the time without the required approval is extremely alarming.
“It is not enough to sanction this affair with a fine which will barely be visible in CS Energy’s accounts.”
CS Energy told Renew Economy that a “historical oversight” was to blame for its failure to obtain the required exemption.
Mr. Brunker said the violation would further shake the confidence of plant employees.
“Failure to comply with AEMO registration requirements means there is less oversight of the control and operation of a power generator,” he said.
“Workers are still shaken by the 2021 explosion and the resulting operational and safety failures – this will further shake their confidence in site management.
“We encourage AEMO to be fully transparent with information regarding this breach and… (the) investigation into the serious events of 2021. Someone must be held accountable. »
Comments have been sought from Energy Minister Mick de Brenni.
Built in 2001, Callide C is one of the state’s newest power generators.
However, the power station near Biloela has been plagued by problems since the 2021 explosion.
Part of a cooling tower collapsed in October 2022.
In November 2022, units were taken offline following a series of accidents and equipment failures at the plant that provides nearly 20% of the state’s electricity.