Massive bushfire safety project now complete across western Victoria

10 May, 2023

More than a third of Powercor customers across western Victoria are now protected by state-of-the-art technology aimed at reducing the risk of powerline-related bushfires.

Powercor has completed the six-year year roll out of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) technology across more than 17,000 kilometres of powerlines in central, northern and western Victoria, ahead of its 1 May 2023 deadline.

The technology works like a large safety switch on the network, instantly cutting the power if a tree or other object strikes powerlines or a line hits the ground.

Powercor Head of Major Projects Marcus Olive said the world-first bushfire mitigation device was introduced in response to a recommendation from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

“We’ve completed one of the biggest projects ever in Powercor’s network and our communities are safer for it,” Mr Olive said.

“We thank the people and businesses that were affected as we installed and commissioned the devices. Their patience and support was instrumental in helping us to deliver this project safely for the benefit of their communities.”

The devices are installed in 22 zone substations in some of our networks’ most high-risk bushfire areas and they have activated more than 6,000 times since they were switched on.

“During this past fire season, we saw 1,172 momentary activations and 139 permanent activations, which shows the devices are working and reducing the risk of fires starting,” Mr Olive said.

These devices can activate for a range of reasons including lightning, strong winds, tree branches coming into contact with powerlines and wildlife.

With the REFCL project now complete, Powercor has delivered on all the Royal Commission recommendations concerning electricity distribution networks.

The project included hundreds of employees across many Powercor teams and 3.3 million hours of work.

The safety devices operate all year round enhancing the safety of our network, but on days of Total Fire Ban they will operate at heightened sensitivity, in line with regulatory requirements.

For more information about how REFCLs work, visit Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCL).