Power supplier in breach of code

Sebastian Neuweiler, GERALDTON GUARDIANGeraldton Guardian
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State energy provider Western Power has conceded it erred when it cut electricity to the unit complex of a 78-year-old Geraldton woman requiring life support.

On December 15, Western Power cut power to a six-unit complex on Place Road, Wonthella, for up to three hours, despite the woman requiring electricity for a breathing apparatus for emphysema.

While the utility has stated the woman was not in immediate danger, a Western Power spokesman said it was disappointing the breach had occurred.

“After power was isolated, one of the residents of the unit complex informed Western Power’s crew his wife was a life support equipment customer,” he said.

“However, she could make other arrangements while the scheduled works took place.”

The Economic Regulation Authority was notified by Western Power on Tuesday that the utility had infringed upon a clause in the Code of Conduct for the Supply of Electricity to Small Use Customers.

The clause states where life support equipment is registered at a customer’s address, the distributor must, before any planned interruption, provide at least three business days written notice and must try to obtain acknowledgement the notice has been received.

The consequences of not adhering to the clause are stated as possibly causing major damage, loss or disruption to customers or endangering or threatening to endanger the safety or health of a person.

On December 1, Western Power received a request from an electrical contractor to isolate supply from a Wonthella complex on Place Road to allow electrical work to begin.

After advice from Western Power, the contractor entered the meter for unit 1 of the complex but informed Western Power the meters to all six units in the complex would need to be switched off.

On December 3, Western Power processed the request, and dispatched it to the works scheduler in Geraldton.

According to the ERA, because of multiple residents’ supply set to be interrupted, it was the responsibility of the works scheduler to instigate the “minor planned interruptions procedure” which would have identified all customers affected by the interruption.

However, the works scheduler did not instigate this procedure.

Similarly on December 15, just after 10am, a Western Power crew attended the site to de-energise the complex, but they did not complete an appointments checklist.

Power wasn’t restored until 1pm.

In a statement, the ERA said had the works scheduler followed the procedure or the works crew completed the checklist, they would have identified one of the residents was registered as a customer requiring life support equipment.

The interruption of power to all six residents in the complex, without providing at least 72 hours notice, also constitutes six infringements of a clause of the Electricity Industry Code.

According to the ERA, the field officers responsible have been temporarily placed on restricted duties, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The woman’s husband declined to comment.

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