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Six-month deadline set for review into mass blackout

A three-person panel will investigate how power firms responded to a storm that knocked out supply.

A three-person panel will investigate how power firms responded to a storm that knocked out supply. Photo: AAP

A review into Victoria’s biggest power blackout in history has six months to hand down its final recommendations.

The review into the operational response of transmission and distribution businesses was ordered last week after destructive storms swept across the state on February 13.

More than 12,000km of powerlines and poles were damaged in the wild weather, cutting power to 530,000 homes and businesses at one point.

The Victorian government on Tuesday announced its appointments to the expert panel, their full terms of reference and reporting timeline.

Former Energy Consumers Australia chief executive Rosemary Sinclair, a veteran of more than 20 years in the corporate and government sectors, will chair the panel.

Other members are former chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre Gerard Brody and Kevin Kehl, a former electrical engineer and executive leader at Powerlink Queensland and Energex.

The panel has detailed operational knowledge of electricity distribution and transmission businesses, Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Extreme weather events like the February 13 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,” she said.

Under its terms of reference, the review will probe companies’ restoration priorities, effectiveness of control room operations to respond to the event and availability and number of field crews.

It will also assess systems used to communicate with customers and external authorities, including SMS, call centres and outage trackers.

There is no scope to look at the state government’s role in facilitating resilience in Victoria’s 6000km high-voltage electricity transmission network, owned and maintained by AusNet.

Communities and other stakeholders have been promised they can have their say as part of the review through public panel meetings or written submissions.

The Australian Energy Market Operator, Australian Energy Regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, Essential Services Commission and other regulators will also be sought out for input.

An interim report will be delivered by the panel to D’Ambrosio in June and a final report in August 2024.

Another expert panel review was set up into Victoria’s devastating storms in June and October of 2021 which collectively kicked 823,000 customers off power.

– AAP

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