Upgrades to powerlines in rural Victoria undertaken during 2012 will reduce the risk of related fires this bushfire season the Victorian Coalition Government said today.
Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien said the installation of new circuit breaker technology would improve powerline safety and supply reliability.
“People and property will be safer this bushfire season than they were last season thanks to upgrades to powerlines that have been carried out this year,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The Coalition Government is delivering on its comprehensive 10-year plan to improve the bushfire safety of powerlines across Victoria by fully implementing the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.”
Throughout 2012 single wire earth return lines in the areas of highest bushfire risk are progressively having their automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs) upgraded from manual to remote controlled technology. On high risk days the fault tolerance on these powerlines, often located in more remote areas, can be reduced without the need to send out a service truck.
Last fire season approximately 6,000 customers were on single wire lines that had ACRs permanently adjusted for the six weeks of the peak bushfire season. This season these ACRs will be controlled remotely leading to an increase in safety and significantly improved supply reliability.
Victoria’s energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), has directed distribution businesses to install new remotely controlled ACRs in areas of highest risk. SP AusNet has installed 153 new remotely controlled ACRs and Powercor has installed 88.
Mr O’Brien visited the site of one of the ACR installations at Panton Hill today and welcomed the actions of Energy Safe Victoria and the distribution businesses.
“The Bushfires Royal Commission found that five of the 11 major bushfires on Black Saturday were caused by failed electricity assets, so this is crucial work,” Mr O’Brien said.
The $750 million Powerline Bushfire Safety Program aims to reduce the risk of bushfires caused by electrical assets over 10 years without having a significant impact on electricity supply reliability.
As part of the plan, the Coalition Government is requiring Victoria’s electricity distribution businesses to invest an estimated $500 million in new generation electrical asset protection and control equipment, which will deliver major improvements in bushfire safety.
The work to improve powerline bushfire safety continues and has resulted in:
- distribution businesses fitting all spans that are more than 300 metres long with vibration dampers, anticipated to be complete by 2015;
- distribution businesses undertaking to ensure the presence of spreaders on low-voltage lines in areas of highest bushfire risk;
- distribution businesses changing their asset inspection standards and procedures to require that all single-wire earth return lines and all 22-kilovolt feeders in areas of high bushfire risk are inspected at least every three years instead of every five years;
- distribution businesses reviewing and modifying practices, standards and procedures for training and auditing of asset inspectors to ensure that only persons who have completed the course specified by ESV are utilised;
- the allocation of $10 million for research and development, with $500,000 already allocated to further arc ignition testing (to inform ACR settings).