Powerline Bushfire Safety Program - reducing the risk
In 2011 the Victorian Government announced a $750 million Powerline Bushfire Safety program (PBSP). The 10-year program will deliver on recommendations (27 and 32) of the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission and aims to reduce the risk of bushfires caused by electrical assets without causing significant impact on electricity supply reliability.
As part of the project, electricity businesses will also invest an estimated $500 million on new generation electrical asset protection and control equipment. The report of the PBST showed that these new technologies would have the fastest and largest impact on risk reduction.
The program also includes:
- Changes to network operations to prevent bushfire starts at the times and locations of greatest risk, whilst minimising disruptions to customer supply.
- A Government contribution of up to $200 million over 10 years towards the replacement of the most dangerous power lines in the State that would otherwise not have been replaced.
- $40 million from Government to mitigate power reliability impacts on customers critically reliant on power - known as the Local Infrastructure Assistance Fund (LIAF).
- A Government contribution of $10 million over 5 years to continue research and development to identify cost-effective risk reduction technologies and procedures.
Summer Safety for the 2012/13 fire season
To reduce the risk of powerline related bushfires and improve electricity supply reliability, new circuit breaker technology is being installed on powerlines around the state.
Powerlines in the areas of highest bushfire risk are progressively having their automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs) upgraded from manual to remote controlled technology. The ACRs enable automatic reconnection of power following a fault. The automatic reconnection under certain circumstances can create a spark where the powerline is in contact with the ground, which has been found to potentially cause bushfires in high risk areas, on high risk days.
On Total Fire Ban and Code Red Days during the 2012-13 fire season, ACRs on powerlines in high bushfire risk areas will be remotely or manually adjusted to prevent them from automatically reconnecting, significantly reducing the risk of a fire start. This safety measure is a recommendation of the Bushfire Royal Commission (recommendation 32). This significantly improves on the situation in 2011-12 when the ACRs in some areas of the network were disabled for the entire six weeks of the period of greatest fire risk.
The changes to safety settings mean customers in high risk areas may experience a delay in power restoration if a fault occurs on Total Fire Ban and Code Red days. The changes balance supply reliability with increased bushfire safety of the state’s electrical distribution network. The changes do not mean the power will be shut off to reduce the fire risk.
Consultation on Powerline Bushfire Safety Regulatory Arrangements
During August 2012 DPI sought public feedback on regulatory options to support the investments to be made by electricity distribution businesses under the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program.
Submissions were received from each of the electricity distribution businesses (SP AusNet, Citipower/Powercor, Jemena, and United Energy Distribution), the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
Having reviewed all submissions, DPI has decided to pursue a regulatory change approach. This will involve the development of new regulatory obligations under the Electricity Safety Act 1998 for consultation with stakeholders as part of a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) process.
It is anticipated that a RIS along with draft regulations will be released on the DPI website for formal consultation later in 2013.
The consultation paper, submissions and the DPI response can be viewed via the link below.
- Read the regulatory consultation paper
- View the public submissions
- View the DPI response to submissions
Be prepared for power outage
In extreme weather conditions, the risk of power outage is greater and people should be prepared and have a plan to manage blackouts. Consider your need for back-up power if you are highly reliant on electricity and don’t rely on power as part of any bushfire preparedness plan.
Remember power outages can also affect phones, radios and water pumps - so arrange for alternatives that do not rely on electricity supply.
This guide to power outages can help you prepare.
- Read about the energy-related recommendations from the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission