Australia– The energy provider has completed work ordered in 2009 to reinforce or replace all aged hardwood poles in its rural distribution network, with the state government saying it is confident the work will reduce the risk of bushfires.
The utility has treated about 170,000 poles in rural areas, and Commerce Minister Michael Mischin has said he is confident compliance with the order will significantly reduce the risk of bushfires and power interruptions caused by wood poles breaking at ground level and falling.
Energy Minister Mike Nahan said Western Power had also begun reinforcing and replacing wood poles in the metropolitan area and in regional centres.
More than half the poles needing attention have been reinforced or replaced under a risk-based priority system, Dr Nahan said.
This work will continue, with the poles presenting the greatest risk of failure being attended to in order of priority.
Any poles found to present an imminent risk will be treated immediately.
While a fallen Western Power pole was initially blamed for starting the 2009 Toodyay bushfire, then-chief executive Paul Italiano told a parliamentary inquiry three years later the cause remained unknown, although the utility had received legal advice that it was not negligent.
Separately, a bushfire in 2014 in Perths Hills region that was sparked by a rotten and termite-ridden, privately-owned power pole prompted Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson to say it could be time to review the responsibilities placed on home owners to maintain poles on their land.
A subsequent EnergySafety review found termite deposits near the top of the pole would have been visible to a Western Power contractor connecting a cable to it in July 2013.
Under Western Powers work practice standards, point-of-attachment poles are the responsibility of the consumer, but the utility has a responsibility to notify the customer if the pole is in an unsafe condition and make the site safe, EnergySafety noted in its December 2014 report.