Executive Yuan releases report on Aug. 15 blackout

  • Date: 2017-09-07
  • Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan

The Executive Yuan’s administrative investigation task force today released its final report into last month’s power outage that hit homes and businesses across the nation.

On August 15 at 4:51 p.m., an abrupt disruption in the natural gas supply at Taiwan Power Co.’s (Taipower) Datan Power Plant caused power generators to shut down, resulting in a widespread blackout and emergency power rationing measures that unsettled the public and affected business operations.

To determine the causes and administrative responsibilities behind the failures, Premier Lin Chuan directed Executive Yuan Minister without Portfolio Wu Hong-mo to form an investigation task force of credible industry experts and officials. Over the course of investigation, the team of four government representatives and seven scholars and experts from industry and the Taiwan Professional Electrical Engineers Association met a total of five times, traveled to the Datan plant to inspect metering stations managed by the state-run fuel supplier CPC Corp., interviewed the personnel who worked the site that day, and invited the CPC contractor involved in the incident to give their explanation of the events.

The final administrative investigation report will guide the government in determining administrative accountability and follow-up actions, and serve as reference for another Executive Yuan task force set up to examine the nation’s overall power supply structure. The report’s findings and recommendations will help make the system more resilient and flexible to bring greater stability and reliability to the nation’s electricity supply.

According to the report, maintenance technicians employed by the CPC contractor were in Datan that day to replace power supply system components at a natural gas metering station. They set up a temporary bonding jumper before replacing the power supply components, but when the jumper was removed, power and communication signals to the control system were cut off for 21 seconds, causing the control system to restart and automatically close the valves, which in turn shut down all gas supplies.

The report also reviewed CPC’s role in the incident and determined that it failed in several supervisory duties and other obligations. First, CPC did not establish standard operating procedures for the replacement of power supply components. Second, it failed to enforce risk management and other necessary precautions, and did not provide management plans or personnel training on technical procedures. Third, CPC did not promptly notify Taipower of the power disruption as required by the gas supply agreement between the two entities. Fourth, only one CPC official was on hand that day to oversee the critical task of replacing power supply components.

As for Taipower, the report also offered several findings. The emergency power rationing measures were implemented without sufficient forewarning, causing inconvenience and anxiety among the public. Procedures for electricity restoration should be refined to minimize the number of customers affected. Other related systems and procedures should be reviewed as well.

The investigation task force also made several recommendations for immediate, medium and long-term improvements: Taipower and CPC should launch comprehensive reviews immediately and address key vulnerabilities at all natural gas power plants as quickly as possible. Taipower and CPC should also implement a joint management mechanism, and notify each another of important decisions or actions beforehand. Personnel training courses should be provided and more support personnel assigned where technical procedures are performed, and practice drills should be conducted regularly to improve emergency response capabilities. A multi-layer protection system should be instituted, and the electricity and gas supply systems should be reinforced to withstand disasters and respond appropriately.

In its conclusion, the report said that the stability and reliability of gas-powered electricity supplies will depend on full cooperation between CPC and Taipower. The two suppliers would do well to take lessons from this experience, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs should see to it that they follow through with the task force’s recommendations to strengthen lateral communications, implement risk management measures, and improve the design, operating procedures and management of electricity and gas supply systems. These efforts will promote the transformation of Taiwan’s energy portfolio, improve the quality of life for citizens, and ensure a better growth environment for industries.