Community safety is a top priority as the impact of climate change sees hotter, drier and windier summers with longer bushfire seasons. Following the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Fires, the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program was established – the largest powerline safety project in Australia, committing $750 million over 10 years on a suite of world leading initiatives.
Introduced in 2011, and actioning the findings of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce report the Program delivers on recommendations 27 (new safer assets) and 32 (safer network operations) of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission to reduce the risk of bushfires caused by powerlines.
The Powerline Bushfire Safety Program has substantially reduced the risk of powerlines starting bushfires by
- upgrading Victoria’s electricity distribution network with world-leading safety technologies,
- introducing legislative amendments to mandate the delivery of key elements of the program, and
- addressing powerlines in the highest bushfire risk areas throughout regional and rural Victoria.
The PBSP Progress Report highlights the complex works already undertaken to make Victoria a safer place during bushfire seasons.
For information on the establishment of the program, research and development into technologies and operational practices to reduce bushfire fires and details of legislative and regulatory reforms refer to our reports.
World-leading technology to keep communities safe
REFCLs are a life-saving technology that act as a giant safety switch when powerlines come into contact with vegetation, reducing the risk of bushfires igniting and keeping communities safe. This technology protects Victorian communities by significantly reducing the risk of bushfires starting from powerlines across more than 31,000 km of the state’s high-risk bushfire areas, or half the network in Victoria.
The Victorian Government’s REFCL rollout represents a paradigm shift in bushfire safety and places Victoria as a global leader in reducing bushfire ignition risks from powerlines.
REFCLs are delivering a safer energy network for all Victorians through:
- enhanced fault detection
- heightened safety standards
- improved maintenance by the electricity businesses.
Benefits Realisation Review
After 10 years of delivering major safety upgrades to Victoria’s distribution network, an independent review of PBSP’s achievements was undertaken by Aurecon Australasia (Aurecon). Key achievements include:
- A 44.1% reduction in powerline bushfire risk to date, with the likelihood of loss of life or damage to property as a result of powerline ignited bushfires projected to be almost be halved by June 2023
- Prevention of bushfire starts at times and locations of greatest risk, through enhanced network protection devices
- 1,288 remotely controlled automatic circuit reclosers (ACRs) installed contributing to the protection of Victoria’s entire single wire earth return network
- 734 kilometres of bare-wire powerlines in areas of highest bushfire risk replaced with underground or insulated overhead conductors, reducing the ignition likelihood associated with those powerlines by greater than 90
- Installation of back-up generators at 343 residential care facilities providing back-up power supply for 15,937 vulnerable Victorians.
Private Overhead Electric Line (POEL) Scheme expansion
- The POEL Scheme has been expanded to include 10 new Local Government Areas and the eligibility requirements are broader. The Scheme is now open for new applications.
View POEL Scheme
The Powerline Bushfire Safety Program consists of 6 projects
Be prepared for a power outage
In extreme weather conditions, the risk of power outage is greater and people should be prepared and have a plan to manage blackouts. Consider your need for back-up power if you are highly reliant on electricity and don't rely on power as part of any bushfire preparedness plan.
Remember power outages can also affect phones, radios and water pumps - so arrange for alternatives that do not rely on electricity supply.
This guide to power outages can help you prepare.
Page last updated: 11/01/22