24 charges have been laid against United Energy for allowing trees to grow too close to powerlines in high bushfire risk areas.
Contact between trees and powerlines can result in fires, electric shock and power outages, which can lead to property damage and, in serious cases, injury and death.
Major electricity companies are required to keep trees and vegetation at least 1.5m clear of powerlines on private and regional public land in high bushfire risk areas under regulations made pursuant to the Electricity Safety Act 1998.
During the inspections, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) identified major non-compliances on 24 spans in high bushfire risk areas, posing a severe risk of fire to surrounding communities. A major non-compliance is identified when vegetation is touching, or could soon touch, uninsulated powerlines.
The non-compliances were identified in:
- Mount Martha
- Crib Point
- Cranbourne South
The action has been taken against United Energy after observing declining line clearance compliance over the past four years.
A significant number of other less serious non-compliances were also identified. ESV issued written notices to United Energy requiring them to make all these spans safe.
ESV Chairperson and Commissioner, Marnie Williams, said that the community did not tolerate electricity companies and councils that do not fulfil their line clearance obligations to keep the community safe.
“Major electricity companies should be on notice that ESV will take enforcement action, which may include prosecution, to ensure safety,” Ms Williams said.
“In light of these issues, ESV expects United Energy to make changes to its existing line clearance management systems, ensuring it meets obligations keeping the community safe.”
ESV has increased its emphasis on prosecuting line clearance offenders that don’t meet their obligations.
Proceedings will commence at the Dromana Magistrates’ Court in March 2023.