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The Victorian Government has engaged an expert panel to conduct the second phase of a review of long-term measures to strengthen the electricity distribution network, following major power outage events caused by severe storms in 2021.

The review, conducted by the Electricity Distribution Network Resilience Review Expert Panel, was established to look at how businesses can improve distribution network preparedness and respond to prolonged power outages from storms and extreme weather events.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, emphasised how the expert panel will help secure long-term solutions for Victoria’s energy security in the face of extreme weather.

“Many Victorians were devastated by power outages following the June and October thunderstorms, and with climate change set to make storms more frequent and intense we must do more to bolster distribution networks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“We were proud to deliver relief measures such as temporary generators, Prolonged Power Outage Payments, and funding packages for urgent repairs.

“The independent Electricity Distribution Network Resilience Review Expert Panel will examine what long-term measures are needed to improve mitigation and response to prolonged power outages.”

Following phase one of the review – conducted from September to October 2021 – a report was delivered to the State Government with short term recommendations to be implemented for summer 2021-22.

These included improvements to communication with critical infrastructure operators, enhanced public messaging to support community preparedness, and faster and more streamlined support for power-dependent customers. All the recommendations were underway before the October 2021 storms.

Phase 2 will identify long-term measures and regulatory reform options to mitigate and better respond to prolonged power outages.

The panel will be led by Chairperson Jo Benvenuti, a former Executive Officer at Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre and experienced consultant across consumer engagement and energy and water policy.

Ms Benevenuti will be joined by Dr Claire Noone, a Principal at NOUS Group who has experience in regulatory design and led reform work at Consumer Affairs Victoria; and Mark Paterson, the Managing Director of low-carbon energy systems firm Strategen who has previously worked across distribution networks.

The panel will host several roundtables in March 2022 with distributors’ representatives, technical experts, community representatives, energy industry experts and the emergency management sector.

Phase 2 will also include a survey for community members and businesses from affected areas.

The Phase 2 report will be complete by 31 March 2022.

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