Home

Power supply trial slammed as ‘token’ effort that leaves 90 per cent of regional WA in the dark

Adam Poulsen and Jacinta CantatoreSouth Western Times
On Thursday Western Power announced a three-month trial for residents in the shires of Boyup Brook, Bridgetown–Greenbushes, Collie, Donnybrook–Balingup, Nannup, West Arthur and Williams, allowing them to either upgrade to or continuing using their 63 amp main switch circuit breaker.
Camera IconOn Thursday Western Power announced a three-month trial for residents in the shires of Boyup Brook, Bridgetown–Greenbushes, Collie, Donnybrook–Balingup, Nannup, West Arthur and Williams, allowing them to either upgrade to or continuing using their 63 amp main switch circuit breaker. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore

The State Government has backflipped on a decision to halve regional electricity allocations — but only in a few select South West and Wheatbelt shires — a move one MP has labelled “a joke”.

On Thursday Western Power announced a three-month trial for residents in the shires of Boyup Brook, Bridgetown–Greenbushes, Collie, Donnybrook–Balingup, Nannup, West Arthur and Williams, allowing them to either upgrade to or continuing using their 63 amp main switch circuit breaker.

But South West MLC Dr Steve Thomas said the trial was a token measure that failed to address the problem facing the other 90 per cent of regional West Australians.

“As we speak, the people in all the other regional shires are still being required to have their amperage halved,” Dr Thomas said.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.

READ NOW

Pressure had been mounting on the government and utility provider after regional households and businesses started having multiple power outages every day after they were forced to upgrade their electrical panels in line with changes to WA’s installation rules.

Updates to the Western Australian Services and Installations Requirements last August meant electricians who carry out installations or renovations at a regional or rural property 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 give regional customers a 32 amp capacity system — half the amount of their metro counterparts who can keep their 63 amp systems.

Constant power cuts prompted a Western Power review into community needs.

According to the utility, the data collected showed existing electrical infrastructure could support an increase in regional load, with network reinforcements to be implemented down the track.

“The circuit breaker requirement was critical to ensuring the safe management of the network and to align with the evolving renewable energy market, as well as Australian standards,” Western Power spokesman Gair Landsborough said.

“The trial will further support that the rural supply allocation is fit-for-purpose and we’re confident we’ll be able to standardise this, but we need to ensure this is managed in a safe and reliable way.”

Nationals MLA Peter Rundle said it was “a win for regional WA” residents who had been “blindsided” by the change in regulations.

“The regions were blindsided by this change in practice from Western Power and it is a relief to many that common sense prevailed and fairness of supply has been committed to,” Mr Rundle said.

But Dr Thomas labelled the trial a “token measure” that gave only select regional energy consumers “the same level of supply they have always had” before the regulations began being enforced in February.

“In the 70 or so rural shires in WA, only seven have been included in the trial,” Dr Thomas said.

“That is not a proper response; it is a joke.”

“As we speak, the people in all the other regional shires are still being required to have their amperage halved.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails