Country power losses raised in WA Parliament by South West MLC Steve Thomas

Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
Simon and Kim Wesley showed some of the electricity problems at their Wellington Mill bed and breakfast to South West MLC Steve Thomas.
Camera IconSimon and Kim Wesley showed some of the electricity problems at their Wellington Mill bed and breakfast to South West MLC Steve Thomas. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore

The uneven electricity allocations between regional and metro customers has again sparked debate after questions were put to the Energy Minister’s office in State Parliament last week.

During last week’s Legislative Council, South West MLC Steve Thomas asked when a Western Power report would be handed down or made public, and when the government would take action on the reviews findings.

Mr Thomas noted that Western Power indicated the report would be available “by the end of September”.

The report is expected to detail whether the newly enforced rules on power allocations were “fit for purpose” for country customers.

The questions come after regional households and businesses started having multiple power outages every day after upgrading their electrical panels in line with changes to WA’s installation rules.

But instead of receiving a definitive date for when this report would be handed down, Mr Thomas said the answers left regional customers in further limbo, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Energy Matthew Swinbourn saying “actions will be determined once the minister has been briefed, and are expected to be taken by the end of the year.”

Mr Thomas said he believed action should be taken now.

“While it is good to see that the report from Western Power has been completed, why is the minister messing about with this until the end of the year?” Mr Thomas said.

Following the August 2021 update to the Western Australian Services and Installations Requirements, when electricians carry out installations or renovations at a regional or rural property, they are required to install an overload-protection switch, which cuts off a structure’s power supply to prevent trips or surges in the grid.

While designed to protect households and businesses, it means the new circuit breakers gives regional customers a 32 amp capacity system — half the amount of their metro counterparts who can keep their 63 amp systems.

The owners of family-run Dardanup bed and breakfast Peppermint Lane Lodge said they could no longer have guests at their property because the power was cutting out five or six times a day.

Kim and Simon Wesley said their business had survived COVID “only to be cut off at the knees by Western Power”.

“We can’t take any new guests until this gets sorted,” Mrs Wesley said.

The couple are worried about the impact of the power losses during the upcoming bushfire season. Their rooftop sprinkler system relies on a water pump that loses power during the cuts.

Mr Thomas said families and businesses deserved certainty, saying “further delay in resolving this is simply not acceptable”.

“There are businesses and households out there in regional WA that are being prevented from operating as normal by the enforcement of this rule that has been ignored for decades,” Mr Thomas said.

“Country people deserves the same level of service as those that are city-based receive.”

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