WORKS to reduce the fire risk associated with power line faults have started in Bendigo, 10 years after the Black Saturday bushfires.
Residents might notice a heightened Powercor presence in the next 18 months as crews install two devices similar to safety switches on the network.
The program comes in response to recommendations by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, which found that power lines and electricity infrastructure caused many of the major bushfires and contributed to 159 of the 173 bushfire-related deaths.
A Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter will be installed and commissioned at each of the Bendigo Zone Substation and the Bendigo Terminal Station.
The devices are designed to minimise the chance of sparking if a power line comes into contact with the ground or a tree limb.
Power lines will need to be upgraded to allow for the REFCL devices to be installed.
A combined 40,569 Powercor customers rely on the Bendigo Zone Substation and Terminal Station.
The network consists of almost 1250 kilometres of power lines.
Works started on Sunday in Strathfieldsaye, where a planned outage interrupted power supply to 805 Powercor customers.
Powercor said crews would be working on overhead power lines and infrastructure in Bendigo's south-east during the next three months.
More works would take place throughout the year and into 2020.
Reduced speed limits will be in force from 8am - 3pm in areas where Powercor crews are working.
There could also be planned outages.
"We will always be mindful of the community when scheduling planned outages to safely upgrade the network," Powercor REFCL technical director Andrew Bailey said.
"We thank customers for their understanding as we work to further improve the safety of our network."
He said Powercor was aiming to have the Bendigo REFCLs installed by Christmas 2020.
The electricity distribution business installed its first devices in Woodend and Gisborne in 2016 - the same year the state government introduced legislation mandating that Powercor, AusNet Services and Jemena deploy the REFCLS in high-risk bushfire areas.
The state government piloted the technology in Frankston and Kilmore South from 2014/15.
Powercor, AusNet Services and Jemena are installing REFCLs at a total of 45 sites throughout Victoria as part of the program.
Powercor is responsible for rolling out the technology at 22 sites in western Victoria.
REFCLs are already up and running at a number of locations including Eaglehawk, Castlemaine and Maryborough.
Efforts are now focused on the two Bendigo sites, as well as Charlton, Ararat, Terang, and two Ballarat sites.
A deadline of April 30, 2021 has been set for those works.
A further seven sites have been identified for the third stage of the program's rollout, including Stawell.
All 45 devices, statewide, ought to be up and running by April 30, 2023.
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