McGowan Government responds to Christmas power outage review

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The McGowan Government has permanently increased the extended outage payment from $80 to $120 for eligible Western Power and Horizon Power customers. File picture

WANNEROO and Gingin customers were among the about 107,000 Western Power customers affected by power outages across a number of urban and regional areas over Christmas.

Today Energy Minister Bill Johnston said Western Power would implement all recommendations made in the independent review carried out by Australian Energy Market commissioner Michelle Shepherd.

Mr Johnston said also the McGowan Government had permanently increased the extended outage payment to $120 and for a limited time eligible Western Power-Horizon Power customers will be able to claim payments and top-up payments, backdated to January 1.

During the outages – starting from Christmas Eve until December 28 – about 26,000 customers were without power for more than 12 hours and 40,000 experienced repeated outages over the Christmas holiday period.

In her executive summary Michelle Shepherd said the most affected locations, based on customer numbers and outage length, were the cities of Mandurah, Wanneroo, Armadale, Gosnells, Swan and Stirling.

In regional areas, Greater Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Gingin were also heavily impacted.

In her review foreword Ms Shepherd said during this period, Western Australia endured record-breaking high temperatures over consecutive days.

“The extreme heat resulted in abnormally high use of air conditioners and fans by residents putting pressure on the Western Power network,’’ she said.

Ms Shepherd’s executive summary said the outages were largely caused by overloads on the distribution network.

“The combination of weather conditions and high levels of customer demand resulted in electricity demand exceeding the capacity of some network assets,’’ she said.

“The extended outages (for example those longer than 12 hours) were largely due to the higher fire risk conditions.

“Western Power takes additional actions during these conditions to prevent its network starting a fire.

“The actions are set out in a number of Western Power procedures and are largely based on what has been agreed between Western Power and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.’’

She said they applied equally to urban and rural areas.

“For example, Western Power’s fire risk management procedures include the requirement to inspect the power line to identify the cause of the fault before the line can be reenergised on higher fire risk days.

“The activities under these procedures can add many hours to the power restoration process.

“The reason for repeated outages was Western Power not having sufficient time to fix the underlying cause of the outage before demand peaked again in the same section of the network the following day.

“The inability to fix the issue led to multiple outages in the same area.’’

Mr Johnston said the recommendations of the report included improving Western Power’s planning and forecasting, approach to fire risk management and operational response to extreme weather events.

It also recommended improvements to customer and community communications, and greater transparency of reliability issues.

He said the extended outage payment had increased from $80 to $120 for eligible Western Power and Horizon Power customers.

Residential and small business customers who consume less than 50 megawatt hours of electricity a year are eligible if they experience an outage longer than 12 hours.

Usually, a claim must be made within 60 days of an outage, but as part of the transition to the higher payment, customers have until 5pm Monday, August 29 to make a claim for any extended outage that has occurred from January 1.

Customers who have already made a claim for and been paid the existing $80 for an outage since 1 January will automatically be paid the additional $40 by April 30.

For more information, visit https://www.westernpower.com.au/faults-outages/make-a-claim/extended-outage/ (Western Power customers) or https://www.horizonpower.com.au/faults–outages/make-a-claim/ (Horizon Power customers).

Meanwhile, last week the Opposition called on the government to commit to an independent inquiry into the regional electricity network, after a petition with more than 2000 signatures was presented to Parliament.

Moore MLA Shane Love said many Mid West communities had suffered regular, ongoing outages in recent months, with Northampton, Mullewa and Dongara residents facing almost 100 outages since November 1 last year.

Agricultural MLC Martin Aldridge introduced a motion recognising the challenges faced in regional WA, where he said power outages were constant, lengthy and damaging for communities and businesses.

“Unfortunately, the government chose not to support this motion, watering it down with amendments and removing its regional focus,’’ he said.