Two Victorian electricity distributors hit with large fines

Two energy distributors in Victoria have been fined by the state regulator for allegedly failing to notify customers of planned power interruptions.

AusNet Services and Powercor were fined $280,000 and $250,000 respectively after self-reporting their actions to the Essential Services Commission (ESC).

It is alleged that both distributors ‘failed to provide advance notice’ for planned power interruptions to 36 AusNet customers in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and 162 Powercor customers on the Bellarine Peninsula. The ESC also noted that among these customers, three of those affected were on life support equipment that relied on vital electricity supply.

Planned power interruptions are common and usually take place to maintain grid stability, but distributors must give energy consumers a heads up, ESC chair Kate Symons explained.

“Performing maintenance is vital for the ongoing quality of supply, but distributors need to ensure customers are adequately informed of any periods when they will be without power,” she said.

“This ensures customers can make alternative plans and not be suddenly left in the dark without heating or cooling, and, importantly for customers with specific health conditions, their life support equipment. Distributors are required to give at least four business days written notice of a planned interruption to electricity supply, pursuant to the Electricity Distribution Code.”

Powercor stated it accepts the ESC’s decision and penalty.

“We are confident in our systems to ensure customers receive the necessary notifications for planned outages but on this occasion, an error occurred,” a Powercor spokesman said. “Since then, we have further reinforced our processes and training to ensure our teams are upholding high standards of customer service.”

Powercor was hit with a $250,000 fine for leaving customers in Indented Head without power for 27 minutes on 31 March 2021.

Similarly, the ESC issued 28 penalty notices (totalling $280,000) to AusNet Services for two separate incidents which left customers in Heathmont and Ferntree Gully without power for several hours on 16 March and 21 April 2021, respectively.

In response, an AusNet spokesperson said: “AusNet has apologised to these customers for not providing advance notice of their planned power interruption. We provide advance written notice to our customers for planned outages in over 99.9% of cases, and we regret that this did not occur for this small number of customers.”

Both distributors reported the incidents to the commission.

What is a planned power interruption?

Planned power interruptions or scheduled electricity outages are designed to maintain energy infrastructure, and are normally carried out by a distribution company. This means that poles, powerlines and networks are frequently maintained to ensure stable electricity supply to homes and businesses across Victoria.

Depending on where you live, planned power outages are usually listed on your distributor’s website. Most distributors will provide the following information:

  • Outage start date and time
  • Suburbs or postcodes impacted by power interruption
  • Number of customers affected
  • Scheduled completion date and time
  • ID or job number
  • Status (i.e. scheduled, in progress or finished)

What’s the difference between energy retailers and distributors?

Unlike an energy retailer who bills you for using power, a distributor is a company that’s responsible for maintaining the electricity infrastructure across a particular network. There are five electricity distribution companies in Victoria, all of which look after different regions of the state:

  • Citipower: Melbourne city and inner suburbs
  • Jemena: Northern and south-western suburbs
  • United Energy: Southern suburbs and Mornington Peninsula
  • Powercor: Western suburbs and western Victoria
  • AusNet Services: Outer northern and eastern suburbs and eastern Victoria

Compare Energy Deals in Victoria

Compare a range of energy deals below by clicking on your electricity distribution area. Use our comparison tool for specific quotes based on your postcode.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Jemena network in Sunbury but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the United Energy network in Frankston but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Powercor network in Geelong but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the AusNet network in Warragul but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

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