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The Victorian Government said it has appointed an expert panel to conduct a Network Outage Review into the catastrophic storm event on 13 February 2024 that left more than 530,000 electricity customers without power. 

The expert panel is expected to make recommendations on the operational response of transmission and distribution businesses, including contingency planning, timely and effective management of the incident, and restoration of supply, including distribution of temporary generators, following the storm event. 

The panel will be chaired by Rosemary Sinclair, former Chief Executive Officer of Energy Consumers Australia, who has more than 20 years experience in the corporate and government sectors including CPA Australia, the Communications Alliance and International Telecommunications User Group.

The expert panel will include Gerard Brody, former Chief Executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, who brings more than a decade of experience in consumer advocacy and community law to the panel.

Kevin Kehl, former electrical engineer and Executive Leader at Powerlink Queensland and Energex, will also sit on the panel, with more than 40 years experience in the distribution and transmission network sector. 

The review is set to investigate distribution and transmission companies’ processes for enacting state emergency management restoration priorities in accordance with the Emergency Management Act. 

It will also consider the efficacy of control room operations and escalation models to manage and direct the response to the event.

The review will also look into the availability and number of field crews, technical expertise and equipment, if there were opportunities to enable more rapid restoration of supply to customers, and the extent of contingency planning for mutual aid including surge capacity in an emergency response. 

The review will assess the businesses tools and systems used to communicate with customers and external authorities, including SMS, call centres, in person support for heavily impacted areas and effective information platforms and services, such as outage trackers. 

It will look at their preparedness to administer the Prolonged Power Outage Payment program and other forms of relief and customer support, and the extent that customers affected by the storms were adequately prioritised in subsequent outages.

Community and stakeholders will have opportunities to participate through public panel meetings or written submissions to the review. The review will seek input from the Australian Energy Market Operator, Australian Energy Regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, the Essential Services Commission and other regulators. 

The expert panel will deliver the final report in August 2024. For more information visit, energy.vic.gov.au/safety/power-outages. 

Federal Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “Extreme weather events like the 13 February storms are becoming more intense and frequent and it’s critical our electricity distribution and transmission businesses are equipped to reconnect Victorians as quickly as possible.

“Our expert panel has detailed operational knowledge of electricity distribution and transmission businesses and decades of experience in customer advocacy ensuring needs and expectations of Victorian are at the forefront.”

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