Ageing network to be worked into shape

Western Power recently lodged its next five-year investment plan to the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA).

The plan seeks to meet forecast growth in number of new customers and in demand for electricity, improve safety in the network and maintain a quality service to the customer.

The investment plan includes a capital expenditure program of $5.810 billion and operating expenditure of $2.714 billion – total investment of $8.523 billion over five years commencing 1 July 2012 (expressed in real dollars at 30 June 2012).

Western Power managing director Doug Aberle said this is the beginning of an extensive process in which the ERA will closely scrutinise the proposal and will include opportunities for public comment.

“This investment plan recognises Western Australia’s growth and the need to upgrade the network to provide for new customers,” Mr Aberle said.

“WA has an old network, and while it has supplied customers over many years it is reaching capacity and needs new infrastructure to meet future needs.

“It also needs substantial investment directed towards replacing poles and wires to improve safety levels.”

Mr Aberle said that the network is effectively reaching the end of its useful and safe life, due in part to many years where levels of investment were below the amount required for asset replacement.

“This has to be done while managing the challenge of replacing parts of the network and still supplying power,” Mr Aberle said.

“This five-year investment plan is part of a longer 20-year plan to bring the network into shape.”

“Until we have replaced or reinforced 164,000 poles, replaced 1073 km of power lines and replaced other parts of the network in the next five years, risks will continue to grow.”

According to itnews.com.au, Western Power has proposed a $529 million ICT budget as part of long-term strategy to bring its electricity network back into shape.

The utility has asked for $174 million for capital investment in IT business systems and forecast an additional $29 million for associated operating expenses for those systems.