Australia — Victoria’s ageing powerlines contributed to three Black Saturday fires and will cause more unless they are fixed, the bushfires royal commission has found.
In its final report delivered today, the commissioners recommended that all ageing powerlines in the state be replaced and upgraded, with regions in the most extreme risk of bushfires having all its powerlines replaced within 10 years.
The expensive proposition is designed to greatly reduce bushfire risk by replacing single-wires with safer bundled cables or underground cables.
“As components of the distribution network age and approach the end of their engineering life, there will probably be an increase in the number of fires resulting from asset failures unless urgent preventative steps are taken,” the report said.
“The commission considers that now is the time to start replacing the ageing electricity infrastructure and to make major changes to its operation and management.
“The seriousness of the risk and the need to protect human life are imperatives Victorians cannot ignore.”
Inspections on major powerlines in bushfire zones should be held every three years with more training made available for inspectors.
More trees should be cleared near powerlines as well by expanding the “clearance zone” currently held around all lines.
The commission found faulty power lines were responsible for the Kilmore East, Coleraine and Horsham fires which claimed 121 lives in the February 7, 2009 fires.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn says the commission’s report strengthens their bid for compensation for the victims of the Kilmore East bushfire.
More than 630 people have signed up to a class action against electricity supplier SP Ausnet and the Victorian government.