7 February 2024

World-leading bushfire safety technology is helping keep Victorians safe.

The state’s single biggest investment in powerline bushfire safety was completed before summer, with the installation of the 45th and final cutting-edge Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) at Benalla.

The Benalla REFCL services one of the longest powerlines in Victoria, which is more than 1000 km long.

A 'giant safety switch'

A REFCL works like a giant safety switch that shuts off power when the powerline comes into contact with vegetation or the ground, significantly reducing the chance of ignition.

Working from zone substations, REFCLs deliver this reduction in fire starts from powerlines for regional and rural communities by detecting and suppressing energy from dangerous faults on fallen high-voltage powerlines within milliseconds.

Leading the way

The use of REFCLs for bushfire prevention is a world first, and now countries across the globe are following Victoria’s lead with trials of the technology underway in fire-prone parts of California.

During the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, REFCLs triggered 33 times of total fire ban days by faults that could have ignited catastrophic bushfires.

REFCLs were proposed as the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce the risk of fires caused by powerlines in response to the Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Protecting communities

Their installation better protects Victorian communities by reducing the risk of bushfires starting from powerlines by up to 70% across more than 31,000 km of high-voltage (22 kilovolt) lines through the state’s high-risk bushfire areas - or half the network in Victoria.

The Victorian Government’s Powerline Bushfire Safety Program has worked closely with the state’s energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, to ensure compliance and successful operation of the $682 million program.

REFCLs are installed in the following bushfire risk locations across the State:

A map of Victoria with blue dots showing REFCL

Page last updated: 07/02/24