On 6 May 2022, the Electricity Distribution Network Resilience Review Expert Panel completed its final recommendations report and provided it to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
The Expert Panel has made 8 recommendations (35 including sub recommendations) that contain a comprehensive set of reforms designed to reduce both the likelihood and impact of prolonged power outages.
The Victorian Government will now develop its response to the recommendations of the Review.
The Victorian Government initiated the Distribution Network Resilience Review in response to the June and October 2021 storms. The Review ran from September 2021 to May 2022, over 2 Phases.
Expert Panel Phase 1 Recommendations
Phase 1 resulted in 8 recommendations for operational improvements and information sharing during energy emergencies. Advisian, the consultancy that led Phase 1 of the Review, designed the 8 recommendations to be implemented ahead of summer 2021-22.
Actions to deliver these recommendations were underway by the end of 2021, and before the second major storm event which affected Victoria in October 2021.
On 15 February 2022, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change announced the establishment of an Expert Panel to lead Phase 2, to investigate long-term reforms to the state’s electricity distribution network.
Expert Panel Phase 2 Recommendations
Phase 2 of the Review looked at how distribution network businesses can improve their preparedness for, and response to, prolonged power outages that are caused by storms and other extreme weather events, which are increasing with the impacts of climate change. The Review also looked at ways to improve community resilience during prolonged power outages.
Recommendations 1-3 seek to reduce both the likelihood and impact of prolonged power outages. This includes that distribution businesses must develop a Victorian Network Resilience Investment Strategy (VNRIS). The VNRIS would require distribution businesses to invest in resilience solutions to mitigate the risk of prolonged outages at the highest-risk locations, informed by community needs, by June 2026.
Recommendations 4-8 seek to reduce the impact of prolonged power outages through actions undertaken in preparation for and during an outage event. These include additional obligations on distribution businesses to:
- take part in municipal and regional emergency management planning processes
- prioritise restoration of vulnerable customers, critical infrastructure and community assets through a priority service register
- provide customers with more timely and relevant information during a power outage
- administer the prolonged power outage payment
- conduct and publish after action reviews.
Small generator program
During the June and October 2021 storm events, the Victorian Government provided small generators to households affected by prolonged power outages. The Panel found that the costs and risks associated with small generators are significant. The Panel recommended that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning divest its fleet of small generators, noting that distribution businesses should continue to explore the use of larger portable generators in support of the network during outages.
The Victorian Government will consider this recommendation as it develops its response to the Review.
Commonly asked questions
The review started in August 2021 and looked at how distribution businesses can improve network preparedness and response to prolonged power outages during storms and other extreme weather events, as well as strengthen community resilience to prolonged power outages.
The Expert Panel was appointed to look at evidence from both the June and October 2021 storms to find long-term measures, policies and regulatory reform options to better prepare for and respond to prolonged power outages.
The Expert Panel looked at the evidence from both the June and October 2021 storms to determine appropriate long-term measures, policies and regulatory reform options to mitigate and better respond to prolonged power outages.
The Expert Panel found that distribution businesses are not proactively preparing for the risk of prolonged power outages, partly because the national regulatory framework does not embed resilience as a goal. To address this finding, the Panel made recommendations to help reduce both the likelihood and impact of prolonged power outages. This includes that the Victorian Government should develop a Victorian Network Resilience Investment Strategy (VNRIS). The VNRIS would require distribution businesses to carry out an analysis of the risk of extreme weather events on their networks, work with at-risk communities and DELWP, and then invest in resilience solutions to mitigate the risk of prolonged outages at the highest-risk locations by 2025.
The Panel also found that distribution businesses need to do more to improve outcomes for customers affected by prolonged power outages and to support community resilience. To address this finding, the Panel made recommendations to help reduce the impact of prolonged power outages through actions undertaken in preparation for and during an outage event. These include obligations on distribution businesses to partner with communities, prioritise restoration of vulnerable customers, and provide customers with more timely and relevant information.
The Chairperson of the Expert Panel is Jo Benvenuti, a former Executive Officer at Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre and an experienced consultant across consumer engagement and energy and water policy.
The other Panel members are Dr Claire Noone, a Principal at NOUS Group who has experience in regulatory design and led reform work at Consumer Affairs Victoria; and Mark Paterson, the Managing Director of low-carbon energy systems firm Strategen who has previously worked across distribution networks in a CSIRO leadership role.
Phase 1 delivered a report by consultants Advisian with short-term recommendations for action for summer 2021-22. Action is now underway for all eight identified recommendations, including several measures already underway before the October 2021 storm.
The phase 1 recommendations focussed on operational improvements to the way the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning coordinates energy emergency responses. Measures underway include improvements to communication with critical infrastructure operators, enhanced public messaging to support community preparedness, and faster and more streamlined support for power-dependent customers.
Page last updated: 16/09/22