ESV completes review of United Energy wooden pole network

United Energy crew performs linework using crane lift (pole)
Image: United Energy

Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has completed a comprehensive review of United Energy’s wood pole management practices, making six recommendations to improve its wood power pole network safety, reducing bushfire risk.

The comprehensive ESV review into United Energy’s power pole management processes has identified actions that, when implemented, will ensure that safety outcomes are sustained.

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ESV is Victoria’s energy safety regulator, responsible for ensuring electricity distribution companies, including United Energy, manage its assets and replace or reinforce power poles before they fail.

Wood power pole failure can lead to disruptions to the network and fires, presenting a major risk in hazardous bushfire risk areas. Failure can occur when they are not appropriately maintained or replaced.

United Energy manages 143,000 wooden power poles and 13,531km of powerlines, delivering services to 702,000 customers through south-east Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.

To date, United Energy has had a relatively low pole failure rate, however, the review identified measures that would further improve the health of the wood power pole network. As part of its review, ESV called for and received submissions from the public in late 2022 on its draft report.

Following the review and submissions, ESV has, has made six recommendations to improve sustainable safety outcomes of United Energy’s wood pole network:

  • Demonstrate how changes to its High Bushfire Risk Area Summer Audit Program minimises bushfire danger.
  • Update inspection plans in line with its Electricity Safety Management Scheme and Bushfire Management Plan.
  • Update its failure investigation process to ensure various aspects of a pole investigation are clear.
  • Update management strategy to align objectives, strategies, performance measures, delivery, forecast intervention volumes and improvement initiatives.
  • Demonstrate how its approach complies with the Electricity Safety Act 1998.
  • Submit its asset inspection training materials and requirements for Energy Safe review.

ESV will ensure that the findings are reflected in changes to United Energy’s Electricity Safety Management System, which is due for resubmission at the end of 2023 and its revised Bushfire Mitigation Plan that is currently under review.

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ESV CEO Leanne Hughson said the review was part of its review of each distribution company’s processes, ensuring wood pole failures were minimised to reduce bushfire risk and meet community expectations.

“While United Energy’s wooden pole failure rate was low, it’s important to ensure processes and systems are in place to keep that failure rate low into the future and reduce the risk of fire,” Hughson said.

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