STORM DAMAGE VIC
Crews are whittling down the number of Victorian homes and businesses without power. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS
  • weather

Victorians face third dark night as energy grid fixed


February 15, 2024

Tens of thousands of Victorians face a third night without power after destructive storms wreaked havoc on the energy grid.

About 55,000 homes and businesses remained disconnected from the electricity network on Thursday evening, down from 530,000 at its peak.

It is expected that 50,000 of these will be reconnected by Saturday while a further 3000 are likely to have power restored early next week.

“There’s obviously still a way to go,” Premier Jacinta Allan told reporters at Dadswells Bridge.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan
 Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said the speed of repairs was being hampered by safety concerns. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Most of those homes and businesses were serviced by AusNet, with the power provider pushing to get another 25,000 back online. 

About 400 AusNet crews worked to clear debris and repair powerlines to reconnect properties following Tuesday’s catastrophic wind event.

It could take more than a week to restore electricity to some properties, the Australian Energy Market Operator warned.

Ms Allan said the speed of transmission network repairs was being hampered by safety concerns and closed roads from fallen trees.

“As the numbers get smaller, the task will get harder because we’ve got to go into difficult terrain,” she said.

“It’s got to be done safely. In many of these instances, you’ve got to make sure that the power lines that are down aren’t still live.”

Emergency Recovery Victoria is considering options for communities that may be left without power into the weekend.

“I appreciate that communities without power are feeling incredibly frustrated,” Ms Allan said.

The main blackout-hit areas are the Yarra Ranges, South Gippsland and Bass Coast.

“We are hoping to have the vast majority (of customers) back on by Saturday,” AusNet’s Steven Neave said.

Despite AusNet owning and managing Victoria’s 6000km electricity transmission system, Opposition Leader John Pesutto accused the state government of ignoring ways to build network resilience in the face of more frequent weather events.

“Victorians have every right to expect their government will make sure distribution companies and the generators are investing in the infrastructure that’s required,” he said.

The storm led to one of the largest power outages in Victorian history.

Victoria’s State Emergency Service received more than 4400 calls for assistance, with a quarter of those incidents in Gippsland and 53 calls for help in Mirboo North alone.

A relief point has been set up at the Mirboo North and District Community Foundation, to provide information, generators for electricity and satellite internet because the town is completely cut off by the storm damage.

STORM DAMAGE VIC
 Tens of thousands of Victorians face a third night without power after destructive storms. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS 

About 750 call-out requests were still active statewide.

A dairy farmer in nearby Darlimurla North was killed when he was struck by debris while herding cows on a quad bike on Tuesday evening.

Parents were forced to keep their children at home after 37 schools and childcare centres remained closed due to bushfire and storm-related impacts.

Yarram and District Health Service and Korumburra Hospital remained on backup generators with power expected to be restored on Saturday.

About 230 phone towers remain offline as Telstra, Optus and TPG deploy crews to reconnect the services as 22 communities potentially remain without phone signal, including the ability to call Triple Zero.

More than 100 suburbs remain without internet access with NBN connections in Belgrave, Berwick South, Emerald, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha and Mirboo North among the most impacted.

Collapsed transmission lines also caused the Loy Yang A coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley to shut down, but authorities insist the widespread outages were caused by local transmission damage.