An expert panel established to review the resilience of Victoria’s electricity distribution network has called for distribution businesses such as AusNet to improve communication with customers and better prioritise the restoration of power following an outage.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien who last year called on the Andrews Labor Government to commence the review, said it was time for action to ensure our community isn’t forced to weather a repeat of last year’s prolonged power events.
“Last June saw an extreme weather event that left thousands of Gippslanders without power for over a week, before the same thing happened four months later in October,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Aside from the significant financial impact felt by many Gippslanders, the prolonged loss of power presented a considerable safety risk to many of our most vulnerable residents.
“Many residents had no way to contact emergency services for help and felt completely exposed and forgotten.
“What we need is immediate mitigating action to minimise the chance of this happening again.”
In addition to improvements in how power is restored, the government’s expert panel made seven other recommendations, the distribution businesses should be required to partner with communities and local councils in emergency planning and response, improve their communication with customers before and after prolonged power outages and after action reviews (AARs) to improve outcomes for customers impacted by prolonged power outages.
The panel also recommended a Network Resilience Investment Strategy to tackle solutions in the most high-risk locations by 2025, more regular assessments of resilience in the distribution system, and changes to the national legislative framework to drive distributor investments in resilience in the longer-term.
Mr O’Brien said he knew many of his constituents would be in favour of recommendation 7 which includes a review of the 7-day loss of power in order to be eligible for financial relief.
“My office was inundated with calls from residents who lost power for just shy of seven days who were angry to learn that they did not qualify for the Prolonged Power Outage Payment (PPOP).”
Mr O’Brien also said it was important that the recommendations were adapted to mitigate prolonged power outages while balancing the risk of passing any associated costs onto the energy user.
“The rising cost of living is already causing significant challenges for many Gippslanders and the last thing we need is for electricity bills to increase even further.
“I am calling on the Andrews Labor Government to ensure the recommendations of this report are implemented in a way that will not see excessive costs passed on to the users.”
The Electricity Distribution Network Resilience Review is available to view at https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/electricity/electricity-distribution-network-resilience-review.