Electricity networks and customers prepare for summer

10 November 2020

While a $340 million program of works has contributed to ensuring the electricity distribution networks across Melbourne and western Victoria are better prepared for summer than ever before, customers are still encouraged to prepare for extreme weather conditions.

Powercor and CitiPower General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke, said forecast heatwaves, high winds and wet weather can cause power outages which would be especially inconvenient this year as homes and business recover from the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Our crews have worked year-round to make sure our network is reliable,” Mr Clarke said.

“But this summer will be different for our customers and so will the climate. We recommend everyone has a plan to have the power they need this summer.”

FACT SHEET – How to prepare for outages this summer

CitiPower and Powercor crews and their resource partners have undertaken a $340 million program in 2020 which required more than 1.5 million work-hours to ensure all network inspection, maintenance and testing is complete ahead of the annual bushfire season.

In addition, the continued rollout of network safety switches takes the number Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs) in service to 14 and means 12,100 kilometres of powerlines in high bushfire risk areas servicing 209,550 customers will have this added protection to prevent fires.

Last summer, the 10 REFCLs in service activated over 110 times on the 17 Total Fire Ban days to help keep communities safer.

FACT SHEET – technology keeping the network safe and reliable

Mr Clarke said a fleet of generators acquired to help minimise the impacts of planned power outages for customers during the COVID-19 restrictions was now stationed across Powercor’s 13 regional depots and ready to be deployed if necessary, in response to major outages.

“The generators will now help further reduce the number of minutes customers are off supply when we respond to unexpected or unplanned outages,” he said.

“What we’ve also seen is that while customers were working or studying from home, they have become more conscious about their reliance on electricity.

Our customers use more power in summer than any other season, so we recommend they know what they need to do if the power goes out.”

A checklist for customers on how to prepare for summer power outages is available at www.powercor.com.au/lineylessons and includes advice on:
1. Looking after your health – particularly if you rely on life support equipment
2. Staying connected – by having mobile phones and laptop computers charged to stay connected with family and friends
3. Pre-cooling your home – if a power outage is planned as part of ongoing maintenance activities on the network
4. Having back-up energy ready – like batteries, lamps and barbeques
5. Staying up to date – by downloading the VicEmergency app and signing up for Powercor SMS notifications about power supplies.

Between January and September 2020, CitiPower customers in the Melbourne CBD and inner-city suburbs experienced 99.99% reliability or an average, around 20 minutes off supply.

In the same period, Powercor supplied electricity to western Victoria customers with 99.97% reliability. That means customers were on average, without power due to unplanned outages for around 109 minutes.

Background

CitiPower and Powercor are ahead of schedule in undertaking the annual program of activities required to prepare the electricity networks to be reliable for customers over summer.

Throughout the year, critical maintenance and major projects have continued while at the same time, the impacts on customers of planned outage required to safely do this work were minimised.

Additional generators brought into our fleet for this purpose are now available in responding to unplanned outages typically caused by extreme weather events during summer.

Powercor is also up to date with all actions required by the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations. We have completed the installation of more than 1,000 SWER Auto Circuit Reclosers (ACR) under a $40 million program and undergrounded 334 kilometres of SWER as part of the now completed Powerline Replacement Fund.

Both were due to be completed by November 2020.

The only remaining VBRC commitment is the rollout of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters which remains on track with the April 2021 deadline for the second tranche.

  • In other initiatives, by the end of 2020 CitiPower and Powercor will have:
    inspected approximately 200,000 power poles (equivalent to around 1 in 3 across the network) and replaced an estimated 3,100
  • cut vegetation clearances from more than 90,000 powerline spans (between power poles)
  • launched the ‘Energy Partner’ demand management program providing a financial reward for customers who reduce their energy consumption for air conditioning on peak demand days.