Meeting strict and increasingly complex regulatory requirements is perhaps one of the greatest challenges faced by most modern utilities. The inherently high-risk nature of the sector means it is highly regulated across a number of facets, with vegetation management being an area requiring particular attention. Meeting the challenge of adhering to vegetation regulatory requirements is too complex a task to be left to manual processes; which is where work management software comes in to simplify the process.
Energy network operators spend many millions of dollars managing vegetation proximity to powerlines annually, in order to mitigate the risks of service disruptions and serious hazards like bushfires, and maintain mandated clearances.
Given the potentially catastrophic effects that can be seen when vegetation adjacent to powerlines is left unchecked, it’s clear to see why the industry has developed such strict regulatory standards when it comes to managing vegetation.
And while incredibly important, the task for utilities to meet these regulatory requirements can be quite challenging. This is where work management software (WMS) comes in. WMS provides utility businesses with tools to effectively and efficiently track and manage their compliance-related activities. It also streamlines reporting, ensuring the required records are on-hand when the regulator comes knocking.
Ensure you’re ready for the regulator
Vegetation management regulatory frameworks and operating standards vary considerably between states and across energy networks. The appropriate clearance distance to prevent interaction varies depending on a range of criteria. These include:
- The voltage of the powerline
- The location of the powerline (whether it is in a bushfire risk area etc.)
- The type of conductor (fully insulated, covered or bare)
- Span length (longer spans will sag and swing more under hot/windy conditions)
Vegetation management is also impacted by differences in climate, geography and vegetation growth characteristics. Over decades, various regulatory frameworks and standards regarding vegetation management have developed in the different Australian states and territories.
Even for networks under the jurisdiction of the national electricity market (NEM), there remain variations in regulation and standards.
Within the NEM, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) provides economic regulation, deciding on the revenue allowable for network service providers. These allowances are intended to be sufficient for an efficient Network Service Provider (NSP) to maintain their network in a safe, reliable and affordable manner, consistent with technical compliance obligations determined by state technical regulators.
The vegetation management technical compliance requirements themselves are set and regulated by respective state governments through technical regulators or government departments. Differences between regulations in each jurisdiction originate from prior decisions by these bodies, which may have been driven by countless different factors over the years.
In addition to regulations directly specifying vegetation clearances, a range of state and commonwealth legislation can indirectly affect vegetation management program design, management and cost in different jurisdictions.
These may pertain to considerations such as environmental protection, protection of threatened native species or Aboriginal cultural heritage, biosecurity, heritage significance, chemical handling, and/or road use and safety. The penalties imposed by regulators for any compliance failures also vary based on a multitude of factors.
Keeping it all in check with work management software
Vegetation management is a task too complex to be left to manual processes. To ensure energy network utilities meet their regulatory requirements, an automated, digitised solution is a must; and Xugo is a cloud-based work management solution that is recognised as being best of-breed when it comes to vegetation management.
Xugo connects teams and processes, enables work programs, ensures processes run smoothly, and strengthens compliance with regulations, policies and standards across a business. Xugo provides the data accessibility and visibility needed for effective compliance control and enterprise risk management.
With Xugo, users can manage all of the works associated with vegetation management, including creating and assigning tasks for planning, scoping, auditing and cutting. Users can schedule and track various activities in progress; as well as review audit results and other critical operational progress information via scheduled and dashboard reporting.
Out in the field, contractors and service providers can track all of the work they undertake remotely by connecting to Xugo via mobile devices. In addition, crews can utilise the Xugo app, which offers significant offline capability in locations where network connectivity is challenging. It’s a rich experience that tailors to the prevailing conditions; wherever your crews may be.
“Xugo provides utilities with the confidence to manage all aspects of their vegetation management program,” said Matthew Croft, General Manager of SFI Allegro, developer of the Xugo software.
“Services that can be undertaken with Xugo include annual planning, coordination of LiDAR collection and analysis, field service activities, reporting and contractor payments to help minimise fire risk, improving network reliability and enabling compliance management with current regulations.
“Xugo functions as the authoritative data source and tracks and allocates work to provide transparency on the status across every vegetation network span. “Importantly, Xugo can also be easily interfaced with corporate systems, for asset, network and financial information.”
By managing your compliance-driven data, Xugo powers your compliance framework and increases visibility of your safety, quality, regulatory and enforcement programs. Xugo streamlines compliance activities, including carrying out inspections, safety checks, audits and incident investigations (including those from customers), as well as the processes involved in compiling reports for regulators. Compliance can be tracked in real-time to drive continuous improvements.
The team at Xugo can configure the software to your business needs, allowing flexibility and full integration with your current operations, procedures and policies. Additionally, this adaptability ensures that Xugo can evolve in response to any enterprise changes. The solution is also scalable, ready to grow with your business.
This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Xugo. Scan to learn how Xugo can help your business manage its vegetation compliance activity.