Victorian electricity companies will have to introduce world-first technology that will halve the risk of powerlines starting bushfires, under new safety regulations that come into effect this week.
The Electricity Safety (Bushfire Mitigation) Regulations 2015 require electricity distributors to install Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) technology across their networks.
The devices stops an electrical current within milliseconds of a powerline coming into contact with the ground or vegetation – stopping a fault before it can start a fire.
The technology was developed in Victoria in response to the recommendations of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, intended to make powerlines safer in bushfire risk areas.
Final testing in Kilmore last year found the REFCL technology reduces by ten-times the likelihood of a bushfire starting from a high voltage powerline fault.
Over the next seven years, electricity distributors will be required to install REFCLs in 45 substations in bushfire danger areas across the state.
In addition, more than 1000 remotely adjustable automatic circuit reclosers will be rolled out on the single-phase, high-voltage network, which will allow distributors to detect faults more quickly at times of high bushfire risk.
In areas of high bushfire risk, electricity distribution businesses will also be required to progressively replace their powerlines by insulating the cables or burying them underground.
The Andrews Labor Government’s new higher safety standards aim to halve the risk of powerline-ignited bushfires across regional Victoria.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio
“These higher safety standards and cutting edge technology will help protect Victorians from the risk of bushfires caused by powerline faults.”
“We are doing everything we can to make Victoria’s power network safer to ensure the tragic events of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires never happen again.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020