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Special Port Lincoln works underway to prepare for bushfire season

Media Release

SA Power Networks crews have begun work on a major powerline upgrade that will minimise the impact on Port Lincoln of power disconnections in catastrophic fire conditions.

On three occasions in 2019, SA Power Networks made the difficult decision to switch off power to Port Lincoln and surrounding areas in catastrophic fire conditions to protect lives and property.

“We understand it is not easy being without power and that residents within the city boundaries found it hard to understand why they had their power turned off as they are not directly in a bushfire risk area,” said Manager Corporate Affairs, Paul Roberts.

He said disconnection was a last resort but an important option for protecting people and property during life threatening fire conditions. “It is not an easy decision or one we ever take lightly. It is based on real-time consideration of a range of fire, weather, and other information assessed against clear risk criteria, and in consultation with the CFS.”

A key issue with disconnection has been the arrangement of powerlines in the area. “The main supply lines to substations in Port Lincoln pass through high bushfire risk areas surrounding Port Lincoln, so while the township is not a bushfire risk area, it has been affected by disconnections,” he said.

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks had considered various options to maintain supply for as many homes and businesses as possible within Port Lincoln while retaining the ability to disconnect power supply.

“After considering our options, we have come up with a $2 million plan to reconfigure a key supply line that runs into the town from the north east. Put simply, we will re-engineer the 33,000 Volt (33kV) powerline on poles to a 66,000 Volt (66kV) configuration. This provides greater height, clearance, and separation of powerlines and reduces the risk, so we can keep the power on for more than 11,000 customers.

Mr Roberts indicated works would be completed before the fire season starts. However, he made it clear people in the high bushfire risk area just outside Port Lincoln, including along Kurara Street, or supplied by lines that come back out from Port Lincoln to support customers in the lower parts of Eyre Peninsula, would still be impacted if a disconnection was considered necessary in catastrophic fire conditions.

“To change that would require extensive re-design and re-building of the network and would be extraordinarily expensive.”

“Most of the work will be done without interrupting power, however there will be some occasions when it is necessary for the safety of our crews to turn off the power while they undertake work. Customers impacted by power outages for this essential work will receive direct notification with dates and times,” Mr Roberts said

The City of Port Lincoln Mayor, Brad Flaherty said, “SA Power Networks has briefed me on the proposed changes. This positive change to the city infrastructure will enable a continued power supply during the fire danger season and is highly welcomed. This is a demonstration of a company that has listened to the concerns raised and has been able to react in a cost-effective way.”

Dr Andrew Nance, chair of SA Power Networks’ Customer Consultative Panel, agreed. “The Port Lincoln community deserves a highly reliable electricity supply all the time, but especially when bushfire risk is high. It was clear that the local community wanted a better solution and SA Power Networks have responded with a well-considered investment that can be completed before the fire season starts.”

SA Power Networks sends digital notification for the essential works program eight working days before the power outage. Anyone not already subscribed for free SMS and/or emails should register via SA Power Networks’ website as this is more reliable these days than postal notification.

Media contact: 0403 582 500 (Voice calls only).

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