Update 14 January 2020:
Essential Energy crews have now restored power to just over 90 per cent of its customers affected by power outages on New Year’s Day.
More than 37,000 Essential Energy customers were impacted by the devastating bushfires that affected the South Coast, Riverina and Snowy Valley areas of NSW.
Hundreds of Essential Energy crew members continue to work to repair networks and restore power, with around 3800 of its customers still without power.
An additional 64 field crew from across Essential Energy’s footprint are currently travelling to the fire affected areas to provide more on-the-ground support to the 320 Essential Energy personnel who’ve been working in the region since the bushfire recovery began.
Essential Energy General Manager Customer and Network Services, Luke Jenner, said “As well as our crews on the ground, we have activated additional personnel including asset inspectors, fleet specialists, vegetation management crews, materials specialists, safety, customer service, engineering and logistics support.
“Our goal is to ensure a safe and efficient response to the bushfire restoration efforts, with the health and wellbeing of our communities and staff the number one priority.”
Due to the continuing fires, some areas are yet to be fully scoped to understand the extent of the damage to the electricity network, meaning some people will face outages until this can be resolved.
To assist communities until power is restored, Essential Energy has been supporting evacuation centres with connecting and running generators to telecommunication services, water and sewerage services, nursing homes and supermarkets once the local Emergency Operations Centres in conjunction with the Rural Fire Service make the decision to provide a generator.
10 January 2020:
Essential Energy is working to reconnect bushfire-affected communities in NSW and Victoria, following extensive power outages caused by the fires.
The bushfires across south-east NSW have caused extensive damage to the Essential Energy network, with the destruction of hundreds of power poles and associated electrical infrastructure.
Parts of the network have been completely destroyed and will need a comprehensive rebuild when crews can gain access, leaving some people without power into mid-January 2020.
Essential Energy has started patrolling lines and making repairs where safe to do so, but with 90 per cent of the network in designated bushfire zones, many locations are still not safe to access.
Essential Energy General Manager Customer and Network Services, Luke Jenner, said teams are working closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) to gain access to fire-ravaged areas, with repairs having commenced where possible.
“The extent of the damage from these unprecedented fires is like nothing we have experienced before. The network has sustained extensive damage with some areas being completely destroyed and needing re-building,” Mr Jenner said.
“We’ve now reached parts of the network that have been inaccessible until now. This allowed us to restore power to 12,000 customers in the Batemans Bay, Mossy Point and parts of Broulee and Tomakin yesterday, with 11,000 customers currently without power.”
Mr Jenner said that there would be delays in getting the power back on for many people until crews are able to gain safe access and assess the damage.
“Our priority is safe, steady power restoration. It’s important we take the appropriate time to fully assess conditions, particularly hazard trees, and undertake any necessary work safely to minimise the risk of our people or members or the public being injured,” Mr Jenner said.
“Priority is given to critical services in bushfire-affected areas including hospitals, water pumping stations, nursing homes and petrol stations.”
Essential Energy said that in excess of 500 poles have been destroyed by the fires to date. A significant amount of damage has also been caused to the underground power network in urban areas of Batemans Bay, where it is anticipated restoration will be complex and lengthy.
More than 320 Essential Energy personnel have been mobilised from across the network’s footprint to assist local teams with network repairs and power restoration. Additional specialist personnel have also been deployed to minimise the impact of hazardous trees and the active threat they pose on the electricity network.
Depot Hubs have been set up in Moruya, Bega, Albury and Tumut to provide support and logistics, including safety leadership, design and planning, on-the-ground fleet management, and ensuring all crews are appropriately supported.
Mr Jenner said Essential Energy leaders are located in the EOCs (Emergency Operational Centres), partnering with the RFS and other emergency services and authorities to ensure safe access into impacted areas to assess the network damage.
“I am confident we have the resources and capability to safely make repairs and rebuild the network to get the power back on to customers. We will work as quickly as safety will allow.”