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United Energy is planning and testing a new package of resilience works that will see powerlines in areas of south-east Melbourne that are prone to high fire risk be moved underground. 

The activities being considered by United Energy for Melbourne’s south-east and the Mornington Peninsula are aimed at making its network stronger and more resilient in the face of more frequent and severe weather events driven by climate change.

United Energy representatives met with community members in Red Hill to hear their views on the initiatives and road test a range of scenarios as part of its next five-year business plan, with a draft to be submitted to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in August.

Other resilience measures being explored include:

  • Expand the fleet of emergency response vehicles able to support communities
  • Expand the fleet of mobile large-scale generators to temporarily power communities
  • Fire-proof-wrap or replace wooden poles in high fire danger areas
  • Increase the heights of dozens of powerlines in areas at risk of flooding

The measures have been developed following three years of extensive community engagement on the peninsula and the south-east, where the customer impacts of a range of major weather events have been experienced.

United Energy’s General Manager of Regulation, Renate Vogt, said that the consultation session was another opportunity to hear directly from community members about the challenges they face when extreme weather events impact the power network, and what they want United Energy to invest in.

“As we are experiencing more intense weather events, we need to prioritise investments that build and maintain stronger networks and communities,” Ms Vogt said.

“Just as more extreme weather is increasing the risk of prolonged outages, our customers are becoming more dependent on electricity than ever before.

“We are listening to our customers to help us find solutions to build more resilient networks in the face of climate change, while keeping costs as low as possible.”

The proposed initiatives being explored are in addition to United Energy’s already extensive inspection and maintenance program that is undertaken year-round to keep the network safe and reliable.

Over coming months, United Energy will continue seeking feedback on proposed investment ideas and activities on a range of different topic, including renewable energy and affordability, that have been identified through earlier engagement.

Proposed solutions, associated costs and benefits will be tested with customers before the draft plans are published in August 2024. The final plans will be submitted to the AER for approval in January 2025.

Featured image: The resilience forum at Red Hill on March 12, 2024. Image credit: United Energy.

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