Private networks to blame for Victorian blackouts

The widespread power outages during the 2018 Australia Day weekend heatwave were due to failures in privately-owned distribution networks, not lack of energy supply, a new report has confirmed.

The Victorian Government released a review this week, which made 15 recommendations to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

“This review confirms what we already know: the widespread outages on Australia Day were the result of failures in the privately owned distribution networks, not supply,” Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Distribution businesses need to plan more carefully for heatwaves and make sure their networks are more reliable and resilient before next summer.”

The recommendations focus on clearer and faster communications to customers and require distribution businesses to put in place low-cost, innovative solutions to manage high-demand periods.

The recommendations include that distribution networks inform the state government of plans to address network weaknesses; communicate with DHHS and vulnerable customers (such as those on life support equipment) about extreme weather events that might cause an outage; and develop a single website for Victorians providing up-to-date information before, during and after outages.

Electricity distribution businesses have committed to implementing all the review’s recommendations.

Following the January outages, the state government brokered a deal with Powercor, CitiPower, United Energy, Ausnet Services and Jemena to provide a $5 million relief package to around 50,000 affected customers.

Customers off supply for between three and 20 hours received $80 while those between 20 and 30 hours received up to $180.

These one-off payments went above and beyond the Guaranteed Service Level payments, which normally only apply where customers lose supply for at least 12-18 hours, rather than three hours.