16 April 2021
Update – results of investigation into causes of recent power outages
Powercor crews have now completed detailed patrols of the powerlines which supply electricity to rural areas north and south of Ballarat where there have been extraordinary power outages in recent months.
These patrols closely inspected more than 1,200km of powerlines and found a range of defects and issues, such as vegetation growing close to powerlines and some equipment needing to be replaced. We expect these have caused the recent faults which have meant power reliability has been below usual standards.
Extra cutting crews were brought into clear vegetation from powerlines in the area and these works are now complete. The specialist arborists we consulted expect vegetation which was inspected as planned in 2020, has grown quickly over the summer due to the mild and wet weather conditions. In total, vegetation was cut back from 2,800 powerline spans as part of these works.
Faulty equipment found as part of the patrols has been replaced, including some lightning surge arrestors which appear to have been damaged by direct strikes.
There have been faults detected since our 22 March update, where bushfire safety devices (including REFCLs) have activated as designed to keep the network safe. These activations caused some customers to be off supply for short periods.
With the declared Fire Danger Period now lifted for the Ballarat region, all our network safety devices revert to normal, less sensitive settings. This means these devices may activate less often in response to faults. These devices still work to keep the network safe, but are operating with reduced sensitivity, reflecting the reduced bushfire risk in the area.
We’re also progressing with trials of new technology in the Ballarat area to help narrow down fault locations and help us restore customers faster.
We’ll keep monitoring the performance of our network in these areas closely to ensure your power is restored to a high standard of reliability.
For more information, you can contact a Powercor Customer Service Agent on 13 22 06.
We know how much you rely on us to deliver reliable and safe power to your homes and businesses.
We recognise that unfortunately our network is currently not meeting its usual high standards of reliability for customers across parts of the Ballarat region. This has meant some communities have been without power on multiple occasions over recent months.
The areas that have been experiencing these outages include Daylesford, Glenlyon, Lyonville, Barkstead, Gordon, Blampied, Dean, Creswick, Sulky, Smeaton, Sebastopol, Napoleons, Buninyong, Durham Lead, Mt Mercer, Lal Lal, Elaine and surrounding areas.
The reasons for these outages vary and range from storm events, vegetation and equipment damage. In all events, our crews have responded as quickly as possible to restore power to our customers.
We know there is never a convenient time for a power outage. Please be assured we have assembled a dedicated Powercor team to investigate these issues and reduce the risk of future outages in the affected areas. The action taken includes:
- Undertaking a thorough powerline inspection: Crews are using specialist technology to patrol more than 1246 kilometres of powerlines in the region including some heavily vegetated and difficult-to-access areas. To date, they have found and removed some large slabs of bark and replaced electrical equipment that had some minor damage.
- Performing additional vegetation cutting: Wetter than usual weather since late last year has spurred vegetation growth. This includes faster than expected regrowth of trees cut during last year’s vegetation management program. Our crews are now undertaking additional inspections and cutting to make sure our powerlines are clear of any vegetation in all-weather conditions.
- Introducing new fault detection devices: We are trialling two new fault detection devices in the area that can reduce the size of a power outage and help us getting power back on to customers quicker.
We have been asked whether the commissioning of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs) in this part of our network are contributing to the increase in power outages. It is important to understand that REFCLs do not cause faults. They are safety devices that help respond to faults or other problems on the network.
During fire season, the REFCLs and other network safety devices operate in more sensitive setting modes. When they activate, they are doing their job in helping keep communities safe by reducing the risk of fires starting from our assets.
While the weather is cooling down, the fire season declared by the CFA is currently still in place. Once the fire season is over, the network safety devices will operate in a less sensitive setting and so may activate less often in response to faults.
Either way, we still need to identify and rectify the reason why they activated in the first place.
We will continue providing updates about our ongoing work to restore power reliability in the area.
For more information, contact a Powercor Customer Service Agent: 13 22 06.