Electricity distributor United Energy is rolling out a $1.7 million program to reduce fire risks and boost power reliability by incorporating new technology into parts of the electricity network.

United Energy has started replacing 5.1km of high-voltage powerlines with covered conductor technology across the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, with 2.9km set to be complete by Christmas 2020.

The conductors cover long lengths of powerlines and act like insulted sleeves.

They are being rolled out in targeted high bushfire risk areas across the network where powerlines can also be affected by extreme weather like strong winds, salt spray, moisture or frost.

By protecting powerlines, the covers also help reduce the likelihood of faults and fires.

The areas chosen for the current rollout are based on bushfire risk and the number of previous outages in the area, and follow United Energy’s successful trial of covered conductors in Cape Schanck in recent years.

United Energy Project Manager, Rob Doyle, said the covered conductor works were part of a broader five-year program to roll out the technology across high-risk areas.

“We’re progressively replacing the most vulnerable high-voltage wires with this technology across our network to increase reliability and to decrease the risk of fires starting,” Mr Doyle said.

“This means the network is much better protected if an object such as a tree branch or an animal happens to comes into contact with powerlines.”

United Energy is conducting work to install:

  • 2.5km at Myers and Balnarring Rd, Merricks North
  • Over 1.3km of covered powerlines along Jones Road, Somerville
  • 400m covered powerlines in Andrews Lane, Red Hill
  • 900m covered powerlines in Graydens Road, Hastings

Work is expected to be completed by February 2021. To allow crews to safely conduct this work, some planned power outages are required. United Energy is notifying customers directly of any planned outages as well as local traffic changes.

More than ten per cent of the Mornington Peninsula is considered Hazardous Bushfire Risk Area (HBRA), and United Energy has implemented a range of measures to keep the network as safe as possible.

The work complements United Energy’s other safety work, such as its extensive vegetation inspection and cutting program which has already inspected 100 per cent of the network in high bushfire risk areas.

The tree-cutting program that’s informed by the inspections is also well on track. So far, crews have cut 30,040 spans (distance between two power poles) including more than 8,100 in the Mornington Peninsula.

To read more about United Energy’s bushfire prevention program, click here.

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