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Are you a high voltage electricity customer impacted by the bushfire safety program?

Submitted on Monday, 17th December 2018

Following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, the Victorian Government has established the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program to reduce the risk of powerlines causing bushfires in the future.

As part of this program Victoria’s electricity distributors are being required to install a new technology called Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiters (REFCLs) at 45 electricity substations around the state. These are similar to a large safety switch on the electricity network, designed to minimise the chance of a spark occurring if a powerline comes into contact with the ground or a tree.

However, the installation of REFCLs on the network can have particular impacts on high voltage electricity customers. These are businesses that require large amounts of electricity to operate and that are connected directly to the high voltage distribution network. There are over 90 of these sites around Victoria.

The operations of REFCLs can result in voltage spikes for high voltage customers and new laws require these customers to ensure that their equipment is capable of operating safely and reliably during REFCL these voltage spikes. While costs vary, this can cost more than $1 million per site.

While the Victorian Government has established a grants program to help businesses cover these costs, the program is capped and will only cover up to 50 per cent of eligible business costs.

Further information on the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program and the Victorian Government’s High Voltage Customer Assistance Program (HCAP) is available here.

If you believe your business may be impacted by these changes, we would like to hear from you to inform our advocacy on your behalf to electricity distributors and the Victorian Government. For more information members should email Hugh Horsfall from the Policy and Advocacy Team or call (03) 8662 5106.

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