Media Statement: Network safety improvements since Black Saturday

21 January 2019

We take seriously our responsibility to deliver the safety improvements sought through the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission.

We are confident we will fully deliver the Royal Commission recommendations related to our business within the regulated timelines.

This is part of an extensive program of work to ensure our networks provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to our customers.

Black Saturday changed the way our business manages and operates the electricity network. The lessons our industry learnt from that devastating day are always front of mind and drives how we approach safety.

Powercor has fully implemented five of the relevant Royal Commission recommendations, and the remaining two that are associated with us are well underway, in line with our regulated timelines.

The two remaining recommendations are in relation to the Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) Automatic Circuit Reclosers (ACRs) and the installation of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs).

By the end of 2019, all SWER lines will have ACRs upgraded to improve the safety systems and 320km of SWER lines in extreme risk areas will have been replaced with underground cables. This is 12 months ahead of the legislated deadline.

In terms of REFCLs, the 961km of high voltage bare conductor lines in Powercor’s extreme risk areas will have REFCLs installed to improve safety and reduce bushfire risk.

Powercor has installed eight REFCLs across the network, ahead of the legislated 30 April deadline for the first of three tranches.

The technology is similar to a large safety switch on the network and it is designed to greatly reduce the risk of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb.

We are committed to delivering the REFCL program in the interests of community safety.

There was already been a significant improvement in network safety. Since 2012, when consistent industry monitoring of the number of fire starts from electrical assets began, there has been an overall decrease in fire starts. In the Powercor distribution area, the number of fire starts from network assets decreased by 45 per cent between 2012/2013 and 2017/2018.