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Software issues disrupt Austrian electricity grid

10 May 2013 17:22:17 | edem

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Several Austrian electricity plants needed to be redispatched manually rather than automatically on 3 May because a sudden flood of data overloaded the control systems in certain regions of the transmission and distribution grids, raising questions about supply security, a spokesman of the Austrian energy regulator E-control confirmed on Friday.

Since it was a "quiet day" the security of supply was not endangered, the spokesman said, adding that not many redispatch measures had to be taken. However, on a day with high wind power generation, the situation would have been more critical, the spokesman said.

Because of the delayed expansion of the transmission grid in Germany, excess wind power generation in the north needs to flow through the neighbouring countries and often re-enter the German system through Austria in the south. The transit flows pose a problem to the system security in many of these countries (see EDEM 26 April 2012).

On average wind power generation in the Austrian and German transmission grids stood at just below 2GW on 3 May, according to transparency data published on the European Energy Exchange website.

The reasons for the software failure are not known and an investigation continues, but "there are no indications of a hacker attack", the spokesman said. Rather than being overloaded with false data, it was the sheer volume of actual data, which led to the system problems, he added.

Even though a single software failure can never be excluded, it was worrying that the problem spread to several systems of different companies.

"The communication between the different systems is crucial," the E-control spokesman said. An issue might be that many companies are using the software from the same provider, he added.

The spokesman said he heard indirectly that the Slovenian power grid and Bavarian gas grids experienced similar problems. However, the Slovenian transmission grid operator, ELES, said it did not detect this kind of problem in the country's power system, in an email response on Friday. The German natural gas grid operator Bayerngas also said that they are not aware of such issues in their system, when contacted by ICIS on Friday. Martin Degen

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