Power pole upgrade program reaches halfway mark

Powercor crew works on pole upgrade program
Image: Powercor

Powercor’s power pole upgrade program to replace or reinforce a record number of power poles in western Victoria to strengthen the electricity network has reached a key milestone and is on track to hit its annual target.

Crews have now replaced or reinforced 3,462 poles (as at the end of July), or about 50% of its annual target of a minimum of 6,930 poles.

Related article: Powercor seeks AER approval for pole replacement program

Subsequent to this milestone, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has approved the $112.8 million cost of the major package of work, which will involve replacing or reinforcing at least 34,650 wood poles over the next five years. In its determination, the AER stated it was “satisfied” the amount Powercor proposes to pass through to customers “reasonably reflect prudent and efficient costs”.

Powercor head of major projects and maintenance Marcus Olive welcomed the AER’s decision, which found these works would cost a typical residential customer an additional $3 a year.

“As we face more unstable weather conditions, building a stronger and safer network to minimise power outages in the future is critical,” Olive said.

“By replacing or reinforcing more wood poles, we are delivering real and positive benefits for our customers at the cost of less than a cup of coffee a year.”

The number of poles being replaced or reinforced has been outlined in Powercor’s bushfire mitigation plan, that is submitted to Energy Safe Victoria. The table below provides a breakdown of the action planned.

Power Pole Intervention (total volumes)YTD – as at 31 July, 20222022 Bushfire Mitigation Plan commitment
Total interventions3,4626,930

The program began on January 1 this year and will continue until 2026. The first few months of 2022 involved setting up and planning the extensive supply chain logistics and resources for the program to ensure we were able to successfully deliver against our planned target.    

“The number of poles we replace or reinforce monthly varies according to different factors such as weather conditions and access arrangements on agricultural land,” Olive said.

“We’ve built a dedicated team to reliably deliver against our annual commitments.

“As the weather improves over coming months, we will be ramping up replacement and reinforcement numbers.”

Energy Safe Victoria recently said, “If Powercor continues to work to its current delivery plan, it can meet the annual target.”

Related article: Powercor begins major pole replacement program

Powercor has been coordinating replacements and reinforcements with other regional asset maintenance activities. Poles are being replaced and reinforced every day of the year in all areas of the network, with additional larger pole replacement batches taking place already in Colac region, Horsham and the broader Wimmera region, and Swan Hill.

Replacement poles have included a combination of concrete and hardwood timber, with materials specifically chosen to suit conditions for each area.   

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