Defect notice issued and customer told to pay for undergrounding a powerline (May 2017)

Meters, poles, wires and pipes
Case Number 2017/2002
Outcome Conciliation

The Issue

Mr B contacted EWOV dissatisfied that his electricity distributor had advised the powerline linking his property’s supply to the grid would need to be removed and replaced with an underground line at his expense. Mr B told EWOV that he had received a defect notice, because there was damage to the power pole caused by white ants. He believes that the replacement could cost him between $2,000 and $3,000. Mr B had also been told by the distributor that his meter box did not have safety switches and therefore also needed to be fixed.

In order to resolve the matter Mr B wanted the distributor to replace the power pole, because it is unsafe, but at its expense given it had installed the pole without his approval in the first place.

The Investigation

When Mr B contacted EWOV an Assisted Referral was lodged with the distributor, requiring a higher-level representative to contact him directly. Because Mr B recontacted EWOV and told us he had not received contact from his distributor, the case was escalated to an Investigation.

The distributor advised EWOV that past the point of attachment (the spot where the pole connects with wire that supplies a customer’s property) it is the customer’s asset, known as a Private Overhead Electrical Line (POEL). For Mr B this meant that past the pole (located within his property boundary) all wires were his responsibility. In May 2016, when a distributor representative attended the property they identified that there was deteriorated insulation on Mr B’s POEL and issued a defect notice. On a second visit to the property in June 2016 it noticed that the power pole had evidence of termite mud. Termite treatment was conducted on the pole in July 2016 and there were no signs of active termites after this treatment and it was found to still be at an acceptable quality for it to remain in service.

The distributor assessed that more than 20% of Mr B’s POEL needed to be replaced, because the deteriorated insulation would eventually cause it to fail, which would then require that the distributor disconnect supply and not reconnect until it was again safe. This obligation is stipulated under regulation 220 of the Electricity Safety (Installations) Regulations 2009 which also advises that a POEL that is to be substantially reconstructed in a hazardous bushfire risk area must be placed underground. Substantially reconstructed means the replacement of more than 20% of the wiring. 

EWOV inspect the pole location via Nearmaps and reviewed the content of the legislation that the distributor had said required the works be complete. This confirmed the distributor’s advice was correct and the customer would need to replace the unsafe POEL and move it underground.

The Outcome

Mr B accepted EWOV’s information and assessment of the distributor’s information and was satisfied that the POEL would need to be underground. The distributor provided a direct contact in case Mr B had any future questions.

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