Mr S received a letter from his electricity distributor telling him the supply to his shed would be disconnected in just over a week. The letter explained that the disconnection was due to safety concerns relating to a defective pole which supported an overhead electric line supplying power to the shed, and that the supply would need to go underground, at his expense, to avoid disconnection.
Mr S discussed the matter several times with his distributor, in an attempt to avoid the disconnection and associated costs. However, the discussions were unsuccessful and he contacted EWOV. He said a representative of Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) had visited his property but was unable to confirm if the pole was at risk of falling. His distributor also failed to provide any documentation as to the safety risk posed by the pole to verify the alleged faults and pending disconnection. Mr S told EWOV that in order to resolve the issue he sought:
- A written explanation confirming the safety risks posed by the pole.
- An independent assessment on the structural integrity of the pole.
- Any power disconnection to be placed on hold until the matter was further investigated.
EWOV raised an Assisted Referral with the distributor and it immediately requested EWOV investigate the matter, as earlier discussions with Mr S had failed to resolve the issue.
EWOV contacted the distributor and requested copies of the service orders relating to the pole as well as all written communications between the distributor and Mr S. The distributor provided EWOV with the most recent defect notice it had sent to Mr S, which stated that ESV had directed it to disconnect supply for safety reasons. The distributor was unable to provide EWOV with ESV documentation to support the letter, so we contacted ESV and requested confirmation it attended the property, with details of the inspection, and information on why it recommended the overhead line be moved underground, or failing that, supply to be disconnected.
The ESV confirmed it attended Mr S's property at the request of the distributor to assess the potential safety risk posed by the overhead electric line. It told EWOV that Mr S's property is located in a hazardous bushfire risk area, as declared by the Country Fire Association, and that one of the timber poles supporting the line was in need of major reconstruction. It cited the Electricity Safety (Installations) Regulations 2009, which states that if the overhead electric line, or line supports, require substantial reconstruction in a hazardous bushfire area, the line must be placed underground. The ESV also provided images of the site which showed an 'x' painted on one of the poles indicating it should not be climbed due to its degeneration, and a photo of another pole showing rot in the centre.
While a complaint is under EWOV Investigation, energy companies and distributors are not permitted to disconnect a customer's supply. However, given the directive to disconnect came from ESV due to safety concerns, the electricity supply to Mr S's shed was disconnected, as scheduled in the defect letter sent by the distributer, and during our Investigation.
The distributor provided EWOV with copies of the letters it sent to Mr S (in February 2013, and twice in April 2013) regarding the defective pole and the need for the line to be moved underground. It told us that following one of its cyclical maintenance inspections in 2015, it noticed that the safety issues of the line remained unaddressed so it contacted ESV and requested it inspect the matter. Following the inspection ESV advised the electricity supply be disconnected as the pole was noncompliant and a safety risk. to confirm that the Mr X had been billed based on correct usage and his higher than expected bills were likely to be attributed to changes in household usage or new appliances.
EWOV explained to Mr S that if the ESV deemed the pole supporting the overhead electrical line to be defective, there is very little we can assist him with as the matter is one of legislation, which is outside of our jurisdiction. Mr S continued to dispute that his overhead electrical line structure was unsafe, but accepted why the shed supply was disconnected based on the ESV's assessment. Mr S accepted the outcome of the Investigation and the case was closed.