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Victoria Blackout Review Must Be Completed Within Six Months

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

A review of the biggest power blackout in Victoria’s history has six months to deliver its final recommendations.

The review of the operational response of transmission and distribution businesses was initiated after destructive storms hit the state on Feb. 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 announced its appointments to the expert panel, their full terms of reference, and reporting timeline on Feb. 27.

Rosemary Sinclair, a veteran with over 20 years of experience in the corporate and government sectors, will chair the panel.

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

The panel has in-depth operational knowledge of electricity distribution and transmission businesses, according to Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.

“Extreme weather events like the Feb. 13 storms are becoming more severe and frequent, making it essential for our electricity distribution and transmission businesses to be ready to reconnect Victorians swiftly,” she said.

As per its terms of reference, the review will investigate companies’ restoration priorities, effectiveness of control room operations in responding to the event, and availability and number of field crews.

It will also evaluate the systems used to communicate with customers and external authorities, such as SMS, call centers, and outage trackers.

The review will not examine the state government’s role in enhancing resilience in Victoria’s 6000km high-voltage electricity transmission network, owned and maintained by AusNet.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto, disappointed with the scope, plans to reopen discussions with upper house crossbenchers to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the energy crisis, despite a failed attempt last sitting week.

“This is not an expert review,” he told reporters on Feb. 27. “It’s a disappointing sham of an inquiry that won’t uncover the truth, and the bigger issue is that we won’t get the necessary solutions.”

Communities and other stakeholders have been assured they can contribute to the review through public panel meetings or written submissions.

Input will also be sought from the Australian Energy Market Operator, Australian Energy Regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, Essential Services Commission, and other regulators.

An interim report is expected to be delivered to Ms. D’Ambrosio in June, followed by a final report in August.

Another expert panel review was initiated into Victoria’s severe storms in June and October of 2021, which led to 823,000 customers losing power.

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