While Adelaide had the power back on within hours, the state’s regional areas suffered in the dark for much longer. Many businesses were still without power on the following Monday according to reports by Fairfax Media.
Manager of Drakes Supermarket in Port Lincoln, Chad Smalbil, told Fairfax that after losing power for almost two days, the supermarket was forced to throw out perishable stock estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I’m having a look through it all now and I’ve got some large, scary figures in front of me: dairy is up to $60,000 and frozen stuff is probably going to be a bit worse.”
While the supermarket did have a generator, that only provided power to a storeroom and freezer room in the back. It did not provide power to the cold cabinets and freezers in the shop. Staff moved as much of the perishables as possible into cold storage, but they were unable to save large quantities of dairy, seafood and frozen foods.
Lights out: Nine News reports on the SA state-wide power outage on 28 September 2016.
It wasn’t only the state’s small businesses that suffered either. South Australia’s largest manufacturers were also caught out by the power failure.
Nyrstar, a Port Pirie metals processor, estimated the blackout could cost the company up to $7.3 million in profit.
Whyalla Steelworks shut down production while BHP Billiton said back-up generators provided power to critical infrastructure at its Olympic Dam mine which would then allow operations to restart once power was restored.
Financial cost to run into the billions
On 29 September, The Australian reported that: “the financial cost of South Australia’s state-wide blackout could run into billions of dollars, with insurance unlikely to cover the significant financial losses for thousands of affected businesses”.
Speaking about the effect of the blackout on South Australian small businesses, the Insurance Council of Australia’s general manager of risk, Karl Sullivan, said that small businesses were less likely to have insurance cover that properly protected them from power outages.
“A lot of small and medium enterprises don’t insure at all, many don’t purchase business interruption insurance, and of those that do they often don’t get utilities cover.”