Media Release: Powercor submits revenue application for bushfire safety device rollout

3 September, 2019

Safety devices that have already prevented potential fire starts will continue to be installed across Victoria’s west, with electricity distributor Powercor submitting a revenue application for the third stage of the rollout.

Powercor is installing Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) devices in 22 high bushfire risk areas as part of a State Government-mandated program, following on from the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations.

The safety devices are being rolled out in three stages, with the first stage completed and the second stage well progressed.

Powercor has now submitted an application to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) seeking an amendment to its revenue allowance of $164.45 million ($2015) in capital expenditure to fund the tranche three rollout.

Powercor’s General Manager, Electricity Networks Steven Neave said the devices had already been installed in eight locations and five were currently under construction.

“Powercor is focused on delivering safe power to homes and businesses, and these devices are significantly improving the safety of our infrastructure and reducing the risk of fires starting from electricity assets,” Mr Neave said.

“REFCLs activated 12 times on Total Fire Ban days last summer and will operate again this summer.”

The device operates like a large safety switch on the network and is designed to minimise the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb, reducing the risk of fires starting from powerline faults.

Mr Neave said the rollout’s third stage involved some of the most challenging and extensive work of what was already the most technically complex project the electricity industry had seen in more than 30 years.

”The average costs per zone sub-station are estimated to be greater for Tranche 3 due to the scale of associated network infrastructure to be replaced, remote locations and difficult terrain,” he said.

The tranche three phase of the program will involve seven zone substations, four of which will require significant redevelopment to provide sufficient room to house the equipment.

The work required includes:

  • Corio – A new control room with new protection relays.
  • Hamilton – A new control room with new protection relays and a new switchroom with new circuit breakers
  • Stawell – A new control room with new protection relays
  • Terang – Purchase of adjacent land to expand the zone substation. Redevelopment of the zone substation is needed to construct a new control room with new protection relays, and new switchroom with new circuit breakers.

Each redevelopment must be carefully designed and managed, with temporary arrangements put in place to allow customer supplies to continue during work.

The tranche three application involves Corio, Koroit, Stawell, Hamilton, Ararat, Merbein and Terang zone substations.

If approved, costs will not be incorporated into network tariff pricing until 2021.

The AER estimated the tranche two roll out contributed about $10-$12 to a Powercor residential customer bill a year. Powercor expects tranche three may be comparable.

The AER will now review the application and is seeking submissions on the proposal before it makes a determination. For more information, visit https://www.aer.gov.au/networks-pipelines/determinations-access-arrangements/contingent-projects/powercor-contingent-project-installation-of-rapid-earth-fault-current-limiters-tranche-3