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While we rely on having a continuous electricity supply, this is not always possible (nor guaranteed) and occasionally supply is interrupted.

Do electricity distributors take into consideration that many people are currently working/studying from home due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Yes, and for this reason Victorian electricity distributors are only interrupting supply for works that are considered to be ‘critical’.

Critical works are defined by Energy Networks Australia as follows:

“Critical works are essential to ensure the energy system can operate safely and equipment keeps functioning. Some works are planned in advance, such as when equipment is reaching the end of its operating life or when minor faults are detected that are likely to lead to further failures. Please follow your local network’s guide on how to prepare. Other works respond to damaged equipment from storms, fires or other natural disasters. During the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, energy networks are doing everything they can to keep the power on, gas flowing and the energy system safe and reliable. This is particularly important at this time for essential services like hospitals.”

Our fact sheet located here provides further information about outages and Guaranteed Service Level Payments.

The Essential Services Commission expects distributors to contact customers to make sure that they are aware of support that’s available to help them through a period of lockdown without power. It expects distributors to remind customers about the Victorian government advice where, if a power outage impacts a person’s health or safety, they can travel to a hotel or friend or family member’s house.

You can find out who your distributor is here.

Planned supply interruptions

The Electricity Distribution Code lists the following reasons whereupon an electricity distributor has the right to interrupt supply.

  • Planned maintenance, repair, or augmentation of the distribution system;
  • Unplanned maintenance or repair of the distribution system in circumstances
    • where, in the opinion of the distributor, the customer’s electrical installation
    • or the distribution system poses an immediate threat of injury or material
    • damage to any person, property or the distribution system;
  • To shed energy because the total demand for electricity at the relevant time
    • exceeds the total supply available;
  • As required by AEMO or the system operator;
  • The installation of a new supply to another customer;
  • In the case of an emergency; or
  • To restore supply to a customer.

In addition to the above, sometimes the supply interruptions are unplanned.

Some examples of unplanned supply interruptions are as follows:

  • Damage to assets caused by vehicle accidents etc
  • Animals interfering with assets
  • Tree branches falling on powerlines
  • Storm damage (including lightning)
  • Failed assets (transformer failure, cross arm failure etc)

In the case of a planned interruption your distributor must comply with the following:

  • Where no person residing at the supply address requires life support equipment, the distributor must provide each affected customer with at least 4 business days written notice of the interruption, or
  • Where a person residing at the supply address is registered as requiring life support equipment, the distributor must provide the affected customer with at least 4 business days written notice of the interruption, unless a longer period of notice is requested by the customer and provided that the longer period of notice is reasonably necessary; and can be accommodated by the distributor.
  • The notice must:
    • specify the expected date, time and duration of the interruption; and
    • include a 24-hour telephone number for fault enquiries and emergencies, the
    • charge for which is no more than the cost of a local call for enquiries.

In the case of an unplanned interruption or an emergency, a distributor must:

  • within 30 minutes of being advised of the interruption or emergency, or otherwise as soon as practicable, make available, by way of a 24-hour telephone service and by way of frequently updated entries on a prominent part of its website, information on the nature of the interruption and an estimate of the time when supply will be restored or when reliable information on restoration of supply will be available;
  • provide options for customers who call the service to be directly connected to a telephone operator if required; and
  • use best endeavours to restore the customer’s supply as soon as possible making allowance for reasonable priorities.

For reference, outage information per distributor can be found via the following links:

Citipower and Powercor

United Energy

Ausnet Services