19/01/2016 - 13:56

Bushfires damage electricity network

19/01/2016 - 13:56

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The state government will lay underground power lines in areas of the South West after the Yarloop bushfire racked up a $26 million damage bill to the region’s electricity network.

Bushfires damage electricity network
The Yarloop bushfires destroyed about 950 poles, causing significant damage to the South West's electricity network.

The state government will lay underground power lines in areas of the South West after the Yarloop bushfire racked up a $26 million damage bill to the region’s electricity network.

Energy Minister Mike Nahan said Western Power had begun the unprecedented task of reconstructing the region’s network after about 950 poles were damaged or destroyed by the bushfire.

“This restoration effort is nothing like Western Power has ever faced and will take significant effort and resources,” Dr Nahan said.

“The total damage bill to the region’s network has been estimated at up to $26 million, with 873 distribution poles, 77 transmission poles, 44 transformers and 30-50 kilometres of overhead conductor damaged or destroyed in the bushfires.”

Dr Nahan said Western Power had explored new solutions to supply power to the affected towns and communities.

“I am pleased to announce that 6.5 kilometres of power lines will be laid underground between Forrest Highway and the outskirts of Preston Beach townsite,” he said.

Dr Nahan said the decision to underground, which was not common in regional areas, was taken based on the location on the network, the extent of the damage, surrounding dense vegetation and future bushfire risk, as well as a lack of network interconnectivity, soil type and the lack of competing underground infrastructure, including water pipes and telecommunication cabling.

Western Power will also consider alternative solutions, including exploring ways existing infrastructure could be adapted to reduce outages in the future, as part of its recovery efforts in the region which would take into account what was in the best interests of customers.

The utility provider will also be waiving a range of reconnection fees for customers affected by the bushfire, on average representing about $500 per customer.

In a statement released late last week, the Insurance Council of Australia revealed 616 claims totalling $57 million in insured losses had been received from those affected by the Yarloop bushfire.

On a national scale, the combined cost of three bushfires and one tornado ICA has declared since November has passed $515 million.

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