Loy Yang power station

A severe storm belt has caused widespread outages across Victoria, affecting 530,000 energy customers and forcing a shutdown of AGL’s Loy Yang A Power Station as energy network crews work to restore power.

Update 20 Feb

AusNet has advised that power has been restored to a further 1,700 customers, while approximately 6,800 customers remain without power.

AusNet said its crews will continue to work through the night and into the new week to get power restored as quickly and as safely as possible.

The most up-to-date restoration times are available on AusNet’s temporary Outage Tracker website

The Victorian State Government confirmed it will commission a supplementary independent review into the distribution system response to the February 2024 storms, led by a panel of independent experts, not politicians.

The independent review will focus on the operational arrangements and preparedness of energy distribution companies to respond to these extreme weather events.

It will include the distribution businesses management of the incident, as well as the timely and effective restoration of supply. It will also compare the operating models of energy network companies.

The Victorian Government will also be seeking assistance from the Australian Energy Regulator for information regarding the energy resilience requirements of energy infrastructure companies. 

This review will be undertaken in addition to investigations from Energy Safe Victoria into the tower collapse and the Australia Energy Market Operator into system response and security.

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “For many Victorians this emergency situation is still live, we are working closely with distribution companies to connect the remaining Victorians to power as our first priority, after reconnecting 90 percent of customers in the first 48 hours.

“We want to get to the bottom of exactly what has occurred, and an independent review will ensure that private distribution companies learn valuable lessons from what happened as climate change leads to more extreme and destructive weather events.

“This review will be conducted by experts – not politicians – and complement the work done following the 2021 storms to make sure our energy network can handle extreme weather events,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Update 19 Feb

As of 19 February, there are still more than 10,000 properties without power in Victoria. Electricity is expected to be restored to all affected homes before 25 February.

Update 17 Feb

Approximately 15,000 properties remain without power in Victoria’s Gippsland area following the catastrophic storm.

While many customers have had their energy and telephone connections restored, some areas face uncertainty as to when they are likely to be reconnected.

AusNet General Manager, Communications and Brand, Karen Winsbury, told ABC Radio the restoration of power had been a challenging process.

“We made some good progress overnight with about 7,000 customers just overnight,” Ms Winsbury said.

“They should be very pleased to see their lights on this morning, but it is proving very hard going.”

“There is so much damage across the network, so for people who are at the end of the lines or in really remote parts of the network, there’s damage, then we fix that and find something else,” Ms Winsbury said.

AusNet said 586 faults were recorded due to the storm, with 15 of those faults affecting about 9,000 customers.

The Victorian State Emergency Service [SES] said it was still dealing with a backlog of calls that would take days to clear, particularly in Gippsland which was hardest hit by the extreme weather.

Bushfires also affected some areas in Victoria at the same time as the storm. 60 homes were lost in total, with 44 properties lost to bushfires and 16 homes destroyed by the storm.

Update 16 Feb

The Victorian State and Federal Governments have introduced a Prolonged Power Outage Payment designed to help support Victorians affected by the catastrophic weather event.

The Prolonged Power Outage Payment means households without power for seven days following the storm are eligible for $1,920 per week for up to three weeks.

The payment is jointly funded by the Victorian State and Federal Governments through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

The payment will be administered by distribution businesses and will help families buy much needed basic items and find alternative accommodation.

The catastrophic weather destroyed homes, damaged vital transmission infrastructure and brought down poles and wires across the state.

Extensive damage to the electricity network left 500,000 Victorians without power at its peak. 90 per cent of those customers were reconnected within 48 hours. 

To ensure residents have access to power, generators are being prepared for distribution. Priority will go to the most vulnerable who are remaining at homes with prolonged power outages. 

The State Government said that further information on how people can apply to access generators will be distributed soon. 

AusNet has already deployed a large-scale generator into the Mirboo North community, providing a central hub for residents to access power.

Customers impacted by power outages may also be eligible for assistance under the Victorian Guaranteed Service Level payments. Assistance is in the form of electricity bill credits – the amount customers are entitled will depend on individual circumstances.

In addition, the waste levy will be completely waived for storm impacted residents across 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs) until 30 April 2024. Residents from these areas will be able to dispose of disaster waste at their local tip free of charge.

In collaboration with councils and the waste industry, the Victorian Government is ensuring all impacted communities have access to a facility or site to dispose of their waste quickly and safely.

Other LGAs impacted by bushfires and storms will be added to the list as required, so affected communities can undertake clean up and recovery activities without paying for waste disposal.

For more information on eligibility visit www.esc.vic.gov.au/electricity-and-gas/information-consumers/guaranteed-service-level-payments-energy-outages 

Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, said, “The Victorian State and Federal Governments are working together to ensure households can get the support they need to buy much needed basic items to help their recovery.”

Victorian Premier, Jacinta Allan, said, “This catastrophic weather event has had a devastating impact on so many communities and we’re making sure Victorians who need help are getting it as quickly as possible.”

State Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “Extra generators and support payments will not only help financially but ensure affected residents can get back on their feet.”

State Minister for Environment, Steve Dimopoulos, said, “There is a big task ahead to clean up storm damaged areas and we’re helping get that recovery underway by waiving fees for storm waste disposal at local tips in the most heavily impacted areas.”

The 21 local government areas eligible for waste fee waiver are:

  • East Gippsland Shire Council
  • Wellington Shire Council
  • Latrobe City Council
  • South Gippsland Shire Council
  • Bass Coast Shire Council
  • Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Yarra Ranges Council
  • Cardinia Shire Council
  • Alpine Shire Council
  • Murrindindi Shire Council
  • Greater Dandenong City Council
  • Monash City Council
  • Casey City Council
  • Knox City Council
  • Kingston City Council
  • Bayside City Council
  • Glen Eira City Council
  • Mitchell Shire Council
  • Melton City Council
  • Greater Geelong City Council
  • Mansfield Shire Council

Update 14 Feb 5pm 

Electricity crews have made significant progress in restoring power to thousands of properties in Victoria that suffered power outages due to the storms on 13 February. 

Approximately 127,743 homes and businesses remain without power in Victoria due to destructive winds across the state, down from 280,000 on the morning of the 14th and a peak of 530,000 on the 13th. 

The AEMO has said that vegetation clearing and repairs to damaged power lines and poles continue, but warns that, given the extent of the widespread damage, it may take days or more than a week in extreme circumstances to restore electricity to all of those impacted.

Update 14 Feb 9.55am

One of four units at the Loy Yang A power station, located in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, has resumed operation following a shut down due to damage caused by severe storms. 

The power station’s remaining three units are still in the process of being reconnected to the grid. When fully functional, Loy Yang A has a maximum capacity of about 2,200MW and generates approximately 30 per cent of Victoria’s power. 

The shutdown has been attributed to the collapsing of two transmission towers that prevented them from transmitting electricity, which in turn caused Loy Yang A to trip.

Update 14 Feb 7.30am

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced that electricity network crews have restored power to a large number of properties that lost power due to the storm.

However, AEMO said that approximately 285,500 homes and businesses are still without power in Victoria due to storm damage across the state, down from a peak of 530,000.

Vegetation clearing and repairs to damaged powerlines and poles continue. However, given the extent of the widespread damage, it may take days if not weeks to restore electricity to all of those impacted.

Emergency crews continue to endure challenging conditions to access and repair damaged powerlines and critical energy infrastructure.

Further information

At the peak of the outage, more than half a million customers were without power in Victoria.

Victoria State Minister for  Energy, Lily D’Ambrosio, said it was one of the largest outage events in the state’s history.

“One unit at Loy Yang A power station has come back online and as a result forced load shedding is no longer required to maintain grid stability.

“The situation remains volatile. I’ll continue to provide updates as they become available.

“We are working with AEMO and relevant authorities to get Victorians back online as quickly as possible and we want to thank those impacted for their patience,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Approximately 90,000 customers lost power due to essential load shedding by AEMO, however all of these customers have since had power restored.

AEMO said in a statement that it was investigating the cause of the power outages.

“In Victoria, the Moorabool to Sydenham 500kv transmission line tripped, multiple generators disconnected from the grid and some consumers experienced a loss of electricity supply.

“To keep the power system secure, AEMO directed AusNet Services to enact load shedding.

“Controlled load shedding is a mechanism AEMO uses as an absolute last resort to protect system security and prevent long-term damage to system infrastructure,” AEMO said.

Monash University Associate Professor, Roger Dargaville, said that additional system security measures, such as excess energy generation, may be necessary as extreme weather conditions become more frequent as a result of climate change.

“On Tuesday afternoon, a severe storm belt with wind gusts over 100km/h, extreme lightning and torrential rain caused havoc across Melbourne. Amongst lots of localised power outages due to low voltage power lines being damaged was the destruction of several towers supporting the parallel 500kV lines between Melbourne and Geelong. The effect of losing that vital infrastructure was to ‘trip off’ the Loy Yang A power station.

“As in the case of South Australia in 2016, we have seen instances where an entire state’s grid was impacted leaving everyone statewide without power. The fact that the Victorian grid did not completely fail is a testament to the resilience in the system and the safety mechanisms in place to protect vital infrastructure.

“Distributed renewable energy systems offer both more vulnerability due to more infrastructure spread over wider areas, but also additional resilience as losses of individual power lines don’t have the same impact of losing large centralised power stations.

“As a result of climate change we are bound to have more wild weather conditions in the future and our energy systems must learn to adapt and grapple with such situations more often. Additional system security measures such as redundancy i.e., extra energy generation beyond just what is forecast to be required, and fast response storage technologies will help make the system more robust,” Mr Dargaville said. 

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