22 April 2010

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Australia —    Representatives of electricity businesses, community groups and government from across Australia will meet in Victoria today to consider the safest and most effective ways to supply electricity to regional areas.

Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor said the Brumby Labor Government was committed to working with electricity businesses and other groups to pursue safe, secure and efficient energy services, as part of a number of initiatives undertaken since the Black Saturday bushfires.

“More than 40 people, including people from rural areas, will today discuss the benefits, disadvantages and costs of alternative electricity distribution technology in regional areas to reduce the fire risk,” Mr Batchelor said.

“It follows the introduction of a number of changes to the electricity technical and safety regulations, which came into effect in December last year, including the compulsory submission by all major electricity companies of electricity safety management schemes.”

Key stakeholder groups represented at the workshop include major community and consumer advocacy groups, such as the Victorian Farmers Federation, the Municipal Association of Victoria and Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, as well as the major electricity suppliers.

Mr Batchelor said workshop participants had been invited on the basis of their expertise and experience.

“A record of the discussions will be supplied to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission,” he said.

Mr Batchelor said the Government was focused on ensuring the arrangements properly balanced risk and cost, and that any alternative technologies deployed by electricity businesses were ‘best-value’ for the community.

“There are a number of current strategies in place to manage the risk of powerlines causing fire,” he said.

“We must balance risk management with the best interests of the community, with particular emphasis on public safety and security of supply.

“We must also ensure that any additional risk management strategies are delivered cost effectively because changes to the electricity supply system can directly impact the price of electricity for customers.”

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