Electricity distributor Powercor has submitted an application to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) seeking cost approval for a $112.8 million package of works to build a stronger and safer electricity grid across the west of Victoria.
The package includes a program to increase pole replacement and reinforcement to at least 34,650 over five years, which is expected to cost a typical residential customer approximately $2.60 per year.
It follows Energy Safe Victoria’s tentative acceptance of Powercor’s bushfire mitigation plan which commits to replacing or reinforcing at least 34,650 poles over the next five years (6,930 poles per year) .
The application to the AER outlines the work and associated costs required to meet these increased commitments. If approved by the regulator, the costs will be passed on to electricity bills from July 1, 2023.
Powercor’s major projects and maintenance manager, Marcus Olive, said the program will deliver improvements in network security and resiliency, while keeping costs as low as possible for customers.
“This program is an essential part of building a stronger, more secure network,” said Olive.
“This year we have already seen lightning strikes and high winds damage parts of our grid, highlighting the importance of this program in creating a more resilient power grid in the face of climate change and more extreme weather events.”
“The cost to customers of this program is less than the cost of a cup of coffee per year, demonstrating how we have sought to keep costs as low as possible while delivering major safety benefits to our customers. .”
“Our customers have told us they’re willing to pay way beyond that small cost increase if it means we have a stronger, more resilient network – and that’s exactly what we’re building.”
The five-year program involves Powercor replacing or reinforcing approximately 7,000 utility poles per year, a 65% increase from 2021 levels.
The extensive works program has been planned region by region and is taking place in the areas of Horsham, Cobram, Shepparton, Kyneton, Bendigo, Mildura, Ballarat, Colac, Geelong and Warrnambool, including surrounding areas.
Program planning is informed by a state-of-the-art asset management approach that tailors inspection and maintenance activities for each of the more than 356,000 wooden utility poles.
This takes into consideration factors such as the type of wood, its age and the prevailing weather conditions at its location.
“We’ve always replaced every pole that we identified as needing to be replaced,” Olive said.
“But by taking this more conservative approach to pole management, we are supporting safety and resiliency goals and, over time, reducing the average age of our assets.”