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Written reply to PQ on substation fires

Written reply to PQ on substation fires

Question 

Assoc Prof Walter Theseira:
To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a) what is the cause of the SP Power Grid (SPPG) Substation fire at the Carlton Hotel in February 2019; (b) what is the result of the investigation into the SPPG Substation fire at Bright Hill in January 2019; (c) whether any equipment at fault in these incidents is scheduled for replacement or maintenance; and (d) what measures have been taken to address the risk of recurrence. 

Written reply

1. Mr Speaker, based on EMA’s investigations, the power failure at the Carlton Hotel on 14 February 2019 was due to a short circuit in the substation switchgear, which started a fire. The insulation between two components in the switchgear had failed due to heat stress from foreign contaminants, which could have been introduced during maintenance. EMA determined that had SP Power Grid (SPPG) complied with its standard operating procedure (SOP) for monitoring work, the incident could have been prevented. As a result, EMA imposed a financial penalty of $1,000,000 on SPPG. 

2. As for the power failure at Bright Hill that occurred on 26 January 2019, EMA’s investigations showed that a faulty voltage transformer (VT) had started a fire in the substation. EMA found that SPPG was using the faulty VT beyond its Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM) recommended lifespan. Thus, EMA imposed a financial penalty of $750,000 on SPPG. SPPG is replacing all the VTs that have exceeded their lifespan, starting with those of a similar make and model as the faulty VT in Bright Hill. EMA has also worked with SPPG to place such equipment within a protection zone where, in the event of failure, the impact will be isolated to minimise the risk of a cascading effect affecting other substations. 

3. The Government takes a serious view of ensuring that our power system remains reliable and secure. EMA has also stepped up its regulatory oversight on how SPPG monitors and maintains the health of our power system. 

4. Separately, SPPG has engaged an independent consultant to review and recommend enhancements to its equipment replacement and maintenance regime, as well as its monitoring work practices. As a result, SPPG is putting more resources into monitoring and maintaining substations and renewing key assets. They will also extend the use of technologies such as online condition monitoring and deepen the core skills of their workforce. Mr Speaker, EMA will continue to work closely with SPPG to ensure a high standard of reliability for our power system.

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