Powercor’s response to Energy Safe Victoria court case

30 November, 2021

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

We welcome yesterday’s decision by Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) to no longer pursue five of the six charges in relation to the 2018 south west fires.

After the first week of court proceedings, ESV will drop all charges in relation to the Garvoc fire which concerned the inspection and maintenance of a wooden pole.

We are satisfied with this outcome as we strongly contend the necessary safety processes and procedures to maintain the network were followed, as approved by ESV at the time.

In relation to the Terang fire, we have pled guilty to one charge of ‘failing to minimise risk of bushfire’.  We accept the clearance distance between powerlines on High Street Terang was not adequate to prevent the powerlines clashing in the high winds experienced on 17 March 2018.

The 2018 fires in the south west region were devastating and we acknowledge the impact it has had on the community.

We would like to assure the community that after this event, we immediately conducted an extensive and detailed review of our processes and have strengthened how we safely operate our electricity network. This action includes:

  • Rebuilding our impacted infrastructure in the vicinity of the fire.
  • Proactively increasing the number of poles replaced and reinforced annually on our network.
  • Significant improvements to how we inspect and maintain our poles and powerline clearances, taking on feedback from independent experts and stakeholders.
  • Developing a data driven maintenance and inspection program tailored for each of our more than 389,000 wooden power poles in Powercor and CitiPower and taking into consideration factors including the type of wood, their age, and prevailing weather conditions at their location.
  • Trialling a unique capability to enhance our powerline inspection program using our in-house LiDAR data captured from our helicopters. When fully implemented, this new capability will enable us to identify and fix any powerlines that don’t meet the required clearance.

We have been reporting on the progress of these works regularly to ESV and they have reviewed and accepted our improved pole inspection and management program.

Improving the safety of our people and networks is our number one priority and accordingly we continually seek to incorporate the best ways of maintaining and operating our networks to minimise fire risk.  In addition to this we will continue talking with the industry, government, Australian and global experts and the community to learn and adopt leading edge technology and practices to make our network more resilient.