Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter

Powercor is installing leading-edge bushfire safety technology at 22 locations across Western Victoria.

The technology, known as Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL), is similar to a large safety switch on the network. It is designed to minimise the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb, thereby reducing the risk of fires starting from powerline faults.

The REFCL device is being installed in some of the highest bushfire-risk areas in the Powercor network. The roll-out is part of a Victorian Government program in response to the recommendations provided during the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

REFCL Locations 

This new technology has already been introduced in Gisborne, Woodend, Camperdown, Maryborough and Castlemaine. Work will continue in three phases across Western Victoria. The program is expected to be completed in 2023.

To complete the stages of work safely, we may at times need to interrupt power supply. Our team works with the community, business and stakeholders to determine a time that minimises impact on the majority.

If you have any enquiries about outages in your area, please call our Customer Contact Centre on 13 24 12.

How does a REFCL work?

REFCL FAQs

What is Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL)

REFCL or Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter is technology that can de-energise powerlines when it detects phase-to-earth faults on the electricity network. The technology is similar to a large safety switch and reduces the likelihood of a fire starting if a powerline comes in contact with the ground or a tree limb.

Why are you installing REFCLs?

The REFCL program was developed in response to the recommendations provided by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

In 2016 the Victorian Government commenced a mandatory program to help reduce the risk of powerline related bushfires in regional Victoria’s highest risk areas.

How does REFCL work?

REFCL acts as a safety switch and can detect when a powerline has fallen or come in contact with a tree limb. REFCL then de-energises the fallen line, reducing the likelihood of a fire starting.

Where are you installing REFCLs?

Powercor will install REFCLs at 22 zone-sub stations across regional Victoria. The program has been divided into three phases of work. Exact dates may be subject to change.

Phase 1:

Location Completion Date  
Gisborne April 2017
Woodend May 2017
Camperdown April 2018
Winchelsea October  2018
Maryborough June 2018
Castlemaine September  2018
Colac December  2018

 

Phase 2:

Location Completion Date
Eaglehawk November 2018
Charlton Q4 2020
Bendigo  2021
Bendigo Terminal Station  2021
Ballarat North Q4 2020
Ballarat South  2021
Geelong  2021

 

 Phase 3:

Location Completion Date
Hamilton 2022
Corio 2022
Waurn Ponds 2022
Terang 2022
Koroit 2022
Stawell 2023
Ararat 2023
Merbein 2023

 

How were the locations chosen?

REFCL locations were chosen by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) based on their risk for bushfires. The locations listed are all considered as high risk for bushfires.

Why does it take so long to implement REFCLs?

REFCL technology is being used for the first time in the world for bushfire prevention. To ensure the REFCL technology works as it should, other upgrades are required across the electricity network before it can be operated.

What impacts will the work have?

Impacts will vary from location to location. During works to the electricity network and for safety reasons, some planned outages will be required. If a planned outage is required, affected customers will receive notification in the mail with the outage date and time.

Powercor will work with the local community to determine the best time to carry-out works to minimise their impacts.

What if I reply on life support equipment that requires power and I have no back-up supply?

Powercor maintains a list of customers with life supporting personal medical equipment. These customers will be contacted by our customer service team in advance of any outages to discuss their requirements.

Why are the outages so lengthy?

During the planning phase we considered how best to reduce impacts on customers. We compared the number of outages people might experience if we undertook discrete pieces of work compared to large outages.

We identified if work was completed under small outages, some customers would be impacted up to 30 times, by completing the work in large outages we can be more efficient and only impact customers a few times.

Why am I impacted by REFCL work when I live in the centre of town?

The REFCL technology must be installed at zone-substations which are generally located in a region’s central location (in town).

The REFCL technology then monitors certain powerlines leaving the substation all the way to the very end customer which could be up to 40km away. When we need to de-energise the powerline to install different parts of REFCL we need to do so for the entire length of that powerline.

Have a question for our team?

Have a question for our team?