Supplying power and keeping bushfire risks lowThe Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 are known as the worst fire catastrophe in Australia with several fires started by electricity distribution networks. To avoid such disasters, the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) was established to investigate the causes and responses to the bushfires. The final report of the commission delivered 67 recommendations, with eight of them aiming directly at electricity distribution businesses.
Minimizing bushfire risks from electricity networks
As a result, the distribution company Powercor was required to replace 1,062 legacy hydraulic Automatic Circuit Reclosers (ACRs) with new devices capable of remote control. The ACR’s were spread over thousands of kilometers of single wire earth return (SWER) network in rural Victoria, so the installation time was a serious concern in the project cost. The regulator mandated the program be completed within a five-year period ending on 1st January, 2021. The Bushfire Mitigation Civil Penalties Scheme Amendments meant Powercor faced significant financial penalties if the project was not completed on time: An initial $50,000 per site late fee, and a $150 per day per site thereafter late fee provided motivation for an aggressive deployment program.
Powercor not only had to find an innovative solution providing the required functionality, but also one that was cost-effective, and quick to install and commission to meet the target date.
Despite some challenges, program costs are still 20-40% cheaper than using alternative technology and the project is currently on track to be completed one year earlier than originally planned.Dene Ward, Network Safety and Bushfire Mitigation Manager at Powercor Australia & CitiPower
Keeping Victoria up and running
With about 90,000 kilometers of distribution lines, of which 87 percent are overhead lines, Powercor delivers electricity to about 780,000 homes and businesses in Victoria. The network encompasses major population bases such as the western suburbs of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, as well as a large geographical rural area.