Media Release: Colac REFCL switched on for summer

11 December, 2019

Electricity distributor Powercor has this week switched back on a bushfire safety device in Colac to coincide with the fire danger period being declared in the Surf Coast Shire.

The Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) device works like a large safety switch on our electricity network, reducing the risk of fires starting from our assets.

To allow the device to operate, the Auto Switchover Scheme servicing Apollo Bay has been temporarily disabled. The Auto Switchover Scheme enabled power to be automatically redirected to flow in an alternative direction if a fault occurred on one of the high voltage feeders into Apollo Bay.

Powercor is currently testing a new Switchover Scheme that is compatible with the REFCL device.

This is expected to be operating by Christmas.

Powecor’s REFCL Technical Director Andrew Bailey said the heavily-forested Otways was a high bushfire risk area and was why the REFCL had been installed in the region.

“Safety is always our first priority so with the fire season here, we have reinstated the REFCL device,” Mr Bailey said.

“REFCLs are an important part of our extensive bushfire safety program and are already keeping communities safer on high bushfire risk days.”

Last month, when a Code Red was declared for some parts of Victoria, the REFCLs detected six permanent phase-to-ground faults and 32 other faults, potentially preventing fire starts.

REFCLs activated 12 times on Total Fire Ban days last summer.

“We understand the community will be concerned about reliability and that’s why we have had a specialist team developing a solution that will allow us to operate the Auto Switchover Scheme while the REFCL is operating,” Mr Bailey said.

“This has been complex and we need to make sure that any solution that is put in place is safe and reliable.

“If the trial is successful, it will allow us to turn on the Auto Switchover Scheme permanently by Christmas.”

Powercor is one of the most reliable rural networks in Australia. However, power outages can happen for a range of reasons, including trees falling over power lines and wildlife

“When they do occur, we have crews ready to respond and get power back on as safely and quickly as possible,” Mr Bailey said.

For more information about how REFCLs work, visit