FSC organizes anti-bush fire education campaign

Fast-track call for power upgrade

01 February 2012

published by www.weeklytimesnow.com.au

Australia — FARMERS want power companies to fast-track the replacement of old circuit-breakers on Victoria’s electricity grid.

In line with a Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommendation, electricity distributors last week manually disabled old breakers in a move that may affect about 6000 homes.

The equipment will be off-line for at least the next month during the peak fire season to prevent the sort of disaster that was blamed for the fatal 2009 Kilmore East fire.

The breakers open and then close when there is a fault on the line.

When there is a major fault, like a tree or a branch over the line, the device can continue to open and shut, causing a dangerous electrical arc, which has triggered major bushfires in the past.

The Victorian Government accepted the commission’s recommendation to temporarily close those circuit breakers that cannot be remotely controlled during the worst of the fire season.

The Victorian Farmers Federation is preparing to cop the closures this year but is lobbying power companies to replace the old ones before next fire season.

VFF president Andrew Broad said farmers did not want to face the potential of a prolonged power outage again next season.

Energy Safe Victoria said replacement of the old breakers had been costed at about $40 million and a five-year timeline had been established for their replacement.

Powercor has disabled all its old breakers for six weeks this season. When one is triggered it will be disabled until a field crew locates it and patrols the line before restoring power.

SP AusNet will dispatch crews to disable its breakers by 10am on total fire ban days and return at the end of the day to enable them.

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