If you live in a high bushfire risk area and wonder why power outages can take longer to restore in summer than the rest of the year – there is a reason.
It’s all about reducing the risk of bushfires.
High temperatures and low rainfall in summer can lead to conditions where fires are easily ignited, spread quickly and are difficult to control.
So how do we adapt to the scorching summer heat Mother Nature sends our way every year?
Tweaking our network settings in summer
If your electricity supply is fed by powerlines that travel through areas susceptible to bushfire, our safety focus means we need to do things a little differently during bushfire season.
We set our network in these areas to be more sensitive.
When there is a fault or interference that could cause a spark (commonly trees and branches coming into contact with wires), the more sensitive settings will shut off the electricity supply faster and the power remains off instead of being automatically restored.
We then send a crew to manually inspect the fault and ensure it is safe and clear of vegetation before restoring power. Some regional powerlines are hundreds of kilometres long, so this can take some time. In some cases we can deploy helicopters to manage the inspections.
This process can lead to longer and more frequent outages in summer, which can cause frustration for affected customers, however the safety of the community is paramount and must come first.
Heightened restrictions which can cause further delays
Our restoration efforts can also be restricted or delayed when Total Fire Bans and Vehicle Movement Bans are declared. Here’s why:
Fire Weather Day: This is a Western Power designation when the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be Very High or greater. We take additional precautions to minimise the risk of our activities generating a spark which could potentially start a fire.
Total Fire Ban: This is declared by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for days when fires are most likely to threaten lives and property. We take heightened precautions to minimise the risk of our activities generating a spark which could potentially start a fire.
Harvest and Vehicle Movement Ban: This is issued by local governments and place an even stronger restriction on our activities. It is declared when the use of engines, vehicles, plant or machinery (including mobile generators) is likely to cause a fire or contribute to the spread of a bushfire. In these instances, our crews may not be able to use vehicles to patrol faults in bushfire areas, further delaying power restoration.
So while we understand longer restoration times and more frequent outages in bushfire risk areas during summer can be frustrating, we are always thinking safety first.
Metro customers can also be affected by Total Fire Bans. Find out more.
Read more about how we put safety first in bushfire season.
What are Fire Danger Ratings? Visit the DFES website for full details.