A new rule announced today by the Australian Energy Market Commission will make it easier to prepare for and respond to major supply disruptions – or black system events.

The changes include expanding the type of technologies that can provide system restart ancillary services (SRAS) after a major blackout and clarifying the processes for testing restart paths along the network. They will mean that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), transmission network service providers and others involved in resolving blackouts can operate more effectively to restore the power system. 

The rule change is critical to managing system security concerns and is particularly relevant given the extra pressures the energy sector is facing as the nation responds to the fast moving COVID-19 threat. It is important in these times that Australia's energy systems and markets are operating in a safe and secure state with adequate consumer protections, including available mechanisms to overcome major disturbances or shocks to the power system.

The AEMC is also currently working closely with our colleagues at AEMO and the Australian Energy Regulator to consider the implications of the pandemic for our broader workplan and implementation timeframes.

This final rule makes changes to the way SRAS is procured, tested and deployed. AEMO procures these system restart services to kick-start the process of restoring supply after a black system event. Generators with the capability to start or remain in service without drawing power from the grid provide system restart services by delivering energy to other generators, which in turn restore supply to customers.

The rule change will take effect in advance of AEMO’s next round of SRAS procurement contracts and responds to two rule change requests from AEMO and the Australian Energy Regulator. In particular, the final rule:

  • allows AEMO to procure a broader range of services as SRAS. There are fewer traditional sources of SRAS (i.e. large, synchronous generators) available in some regions, and those that remain may be potentially less capable of restoring the power system. By expanding the definition of SRAS, new generators and other technologies, such as utility scale batteries, can offer these services 
  • establishes a transparent framework for the physical testing of system restart paths along the network. This will complement the existing testing of SRAS generators that is routinely undertaken 
  • clarifies the communication processes parties must follow with respect to SRAS
  • clarifies that AEMO can take long-term costs into account when procuring SRAS. This will make it easier for AEMO to enter into long-term contracts with new SRAS providers where this will result in the lowest long-term costs for consumers. 


Historically, SRAS have been provided by generators with the capability to start, or remain in service, without electricity being provided from the grid. Once an SRAS provider has restarted its own plant, it provides energy to restart other generators and begins the processes required to restore the power system. AEMO, networks and other generators then carefully manage this process so that power is restored to customers as quickly as possible.

SRAS are key to keeping the national electricity market resilient to major shocks. Resilience is about the ability of the power system to avoid, survive and recover from these shocks, like severe storm events, which can potentially result in major blackouts. While other first-line defence mechanisms exist to protect against blackouts, if they do occur, it’s also necessary to ensure that we can recover quickly. We also need to make sure that the process of restarting the system is properly coordinated and runs smoothly, so power can be restored quickly and efficiently. 

Media: Kellie Bisset, Media and Content Manager, 0438 490 041; (02) 8296 7813