While a $185 million program of works has contributed to ensuring United Energy’s network supplying electricity to the Mornington Peninsula is better prepared for summer than ever before, customers are still encouraged to prepare for extreme weather conditions.

United Energy General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke, said forecast heatwaves, high winds and wet weather can cause power outages which would be especially inconvenient this year as homes and business recover from the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We’ve already seen the impact of high winds causing damage on our network this Spring,” Mr Clarke said.

“Our crews have worked year-round to make sure our network is reliable. But this summer will be different for our customers and so will the climate. We recommend everyone has a plan to have the power they need this summer.”

United Energy and its resource partners have undertaken a $185 million program in 2020 which required more than 1 million work-hours to ensure all network inspection, maintenance and testing is complete ahead of the annual bushfire season.

The highlights of this work include upgrading 47 local substations, including 8 in hazardous bushfire risk areas, installing 2.9 kilometres of covered conductor to insulate powerlines, with another 2.2km to be constructed over coming months, and 91 network spreaders to prevent clashing.

Three Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) devices are also installed to act as a network safety switch to reduce the risk of fires starting from electrical assets in high bushfire risk areas. These are active in Dromana, Frankston South and Mornington and protect 680 kilometres of powerlines servicing 63,500 customers.

The annual, extensive vegetation inspection and cutting program is on track with United Energy completing 100 per cent of inspections in high risk areas. Crews have cut 30,040 spans (distance between two power poles) including more than 8,100 in the Mornington Peninsula.
All requirements of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission for United Energy have been met ahead of this summer.

Mr Clarke said the extensive efforts were ahead of schedule and would create greater capacity to deal with peak summer demand, while keeping the network safe and reliable.

“What we’ve also seen is that while customers were working or studying from home, they have become more conscious about their reliance on electricity,” he said.

“We have made a lot of changes to how we work this year to minimise the impacts of planned power outages for customers during the COVID-19 restrictions.

“Our customers use more power in summer than any other season so we recommend they know what they need to do if the power goes out for any reason.”

A checklist for customers on how to prepare for summer power outages is available at www.unitedenergy.com.au and includes advice on:

1. Looking after your health – particularly if you rely on life support equipment
2. Staying connected – by having mobile phones and laptop computers charged to stay connected with family and friends
3. Pre-cooling your home – if a power outage is planned as part of ongoing maintenance activities on the network
4. Having back-up energy ready – like batteries, lamps and barbeques
5. Staying up to date – by downloading the VicEmergency app and signing up for United Energy SMS notifications about power supplies.

United Energy has also launched its Summer Saver program for customers targeted parts of the network, designed to financially reward customers for changing their energy habits at peak times. To see if you’re eligible, visit https://summer-saver.digital.unitedenergy.com.au/registration

United Energy supplies electricity to its customers with 99.99% reliability. That means customers were on average, without power due to unplanned outages for around 44 minutes over 12 months.