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Private Aerial Lines

Important information about Private Aerial Lines and electricity distribution

Overview

There are two types of private electric lines:

  • Private aerial lines (PAL)
  • underground electric lines.

Both are generally located on private properties that connect to the electricity distribution network, at a point known as the point of supply – as defined in the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (the Act).

Point of supply

The point of supply is the changeover point from the electricity distribution network to the electrical installation, where the property owner becomes responsible for the maintenance and repair of the electrical installation including the private electric lines on their property.

In relation to a PAL, the point of supply is generally where either:

  • the electricity distribution network connects to the first pole on the property
  • the aerial or overhead line connects to distribution assets on the property.

Private Aerial Lines (PALs)

PALs are low voltage poles and wires (which can be bare or insulated), generally located on private properties which form part of the electrical installation of the property and carry the electricity supply from the electricity distribution network.

These have been historically known as Private Overhead Electric Lines (POELs), and even referred to as Aerial Consumers Mains (ACM).

A photograph of a private aerial line on a rural, private road.
Example: Private Aerial Line (PAL) on a rural, private road.

Hazardous Bushfire Risk Areas (HBRA)

There are regulations, aimed at ensuring all private electric lines installed are placed underground, minimising the risk that private electric lines cause ignition of fire in Hazardous Bushfire Risk Areas (HBRA).

The same regulations also establish requirements aimed at existing PALs as they reach the end of their service life and begin to fail, nominating specified thresholds in which the PAL must be placed underground when they are located in HBRAs. This is referred to as a PAL requiring 'substantial reconstruction'.

Note: Hazardous Bushfire Risk Areas (HBRA) are designated by the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Electric Line Construction Areas (ELCA)

No PAL can be erected, or substantially reconstructed in an Electric Line Construction Area (ELCA).

They are not subject to the issue of a reference code for temporary restoration of supply.

Please contact Energy Safe to find out if the PAL (including a Private Service Line (PSL) is located in an ELCA.

Private Service Lines (PSL)

A PSL is a form of PAL with a single span of aerial line connected between the distribution company assets (e.g. pole transformer) and a building or structure (other than a private pole) located on private land.

A photograph of a private service line on a suburban or rural street. Text with an arrow overlays a small section of the right side of the photograph, noting the private service line, which is a single wire connecting a residence to a power pole.
Example: Private Service Line (PSL) on a suburban or rural street. Arrow showing the single span of aerial line connecting the residence to a distribution business power pole.

Repairs and maintenance of PAL

As a result of the many sources of faults, property owners may require the maintenance and repair (or substantial reconstruction) of PALs in order to maintain or gain the reconnection of an electricity supply to their electrical installations.

The electricity distribution company will only reconnect power to a PAL once a Certificate of Electrical Safety (COES) is issued by a licensed electrician or Registered Electrical Contractor (REC).

These licensed and registered people's work must comply with the Act, and Electricity Safety (General) Regulations 2019 (Regulations).

Repairs to PAL in Low Bushfire Risk Areas (LBRA) are permitted, in accordance with the Act and Regulations.

Limited repairs to PAL in HBRAs are permitted without a reference code from Energy Safe, when the work does not require substantial reconstruction.

A licensed electrician or REC may repair and reconstruct damaged portions of the PAL and arrange a reconnection to supply when either:

  • Damaged pole(s) or span(s) to be replaced is less than 20% of the total number of poles or spans
  • A repair relates to either:
    • components of the pole or supporting the conductor (for example replacing a cross-arm, insulator or conductor spreader)
    • replacement of failed fused mains boxes
    • circuit breakers installed to protect the aerial line.

When carrying out a repair or maintenance the electrician or REC must ensure the PAL complies with the construction requirements in the Regulations:

  • If the PAL is horizontally constructed with bare open wire conductors, it must have a conductor spreader fitted to each span of conductor in a manner that effectively prevents the conductors from clashing.
  • The PAL must be protected at its origin with an over-current protective device (other than a fuse link) that operates in all active conductors and can be operated from the ground. This is achieved by fitting a circuit breaker and supply protection assembly 4m from the ground, as required by the distribution company’s Service and Installation Rules (SIR).

Substantial reconstruction of a PSL

Under the Regulations, where a PAL is located in a HBRA, and it requires substantial reconstruction, the PAL must be placed underground.

'Substantial reconstruction' means:

In the case of private aerial lines supported by means of a catenary, either:

  • replacement or repair of more than 20% of the number of spans supported by a catenary or catenaries
  • replacement or repair of more than 20% of the number of poles for the catenary or catenaries supporting a cable.

In the case of all other private aerial lines, either:

  • replacement or repair of more than 20% of the number of spans
  • replacement or repair of more than 20% of the number of poles in that line supporting wiring.

If a PSL to be repaired is located in an Electric Line Construction Area (ELCA), the PSL must be placed underground.

A PSL in a HBRA may otherwise be replaced if the reconstructed line complies with the following requirements:

The new line

  • is comprised of Aerial Bundled Cable (ABC)

  • is fitted with an overhead break-away device [1] (often referred to as a or cut-away device or safety service disconnector) that is fitted at the point where the PSL is attached to the distribution company supply pole. (See below for more information).

  • is protected at its origin with an over-current protective device (other than a fuse link) that operates in all active conductors and can be operated from the ground. [2]

Alternatively, the PSL may be relocated underground.

Arrangements for access to, or work to be completed on or near Distribution Company assets must be sought through the relevant electricity distributor, and only undertaken with their written permission (a permit) while also complying with any conditions imposed.


[1] The overhead break-away device must be approved by Energy Safe Victoria

[2] This is achieved by fitting a circuit breaker and supply protection assembly 4m from the ground as required by the distribution company (VESI) Service and Installation Rules.


Approved overhead break-away device

The regulations regarding substantial reconstruction of a PSL refers to an overhead break-away device fitted that must be approved by Energy Safe.

Energy Safe has approved the use of the Preformed Line Products (PLP) break-away device, commercially known as a 'Service Safety Disconnector', part number SSD-2X25AL19.

A 'Service Safety Disconnector'
A break-away device, commercially known as a 'Service Safety Disconnector', part number SSD-2X25AL19

An approved overhead break-away device in use on a PSL
An approved overhead break-away device ('Service Safety Disconnector') in use

Note: This device is designed to only be used for single phase applications. There is currently no approved multiphase break-away device. Multiple, single phase break-away devices cannot be used in multiphase applications.

For further information about their products, please phone PLP on 02 8805 0000 or visit PLP Australia

Repairs and restoration of supply

As detailed above, the Regulations require that if a PAL is in Hazardous Bushfire Risk Area, it

  • must be placed underground if it needs to be substantially reconstructed
  • may also be permitted a limited-time emergency restoration (with reference code where the PAL must be relocated underground within 60 days)

If it is to have limited repairs (other than substantial reconstruction) this can be done without a reference code.

The typical process

Step 1

The property occupier contacts a Registered Electrical Contractor (REC) to have a licensed electrician assess what work needs to be done, determining if the PAL can be repaired, or if it meets the thresholds for substantial reconstruction (per the Regulations). If it does, the PAL must be placed underground.

Learn more about finding a REC here: Electrical workers

Step 2

Where the PAL is required to be substantially reconstructed (placed underground), the licensed electrician may relocate the PAL at that time, or carry out an emergency restoration (a temporary repair)[3] when the owner (or their agent) makes a written undertaking that the owner will, within 60 days have the PAL placed underground.


[3] This written undertaking must be completed and signed, prior to the electrician undertaking the repair. Complete the Undertaking Emergency restoration of a Private Aerial Line (PAL) in a HBRA form:

FORM_EmergencyRestorationPALorPOEL_HBRA_Jun2021
PDF 55.98 KB
(opens in a new window)

Step 3

Where the PAL is required to be substantially reconstructed, the electrician contacts Energy Safe on the emergency line (1800 000 922) to:

  • Outline the arrangement of the PAL, and repair(s) required
  • Provide the details of, or a digital photograph of the undertaking form (signed by the owner) – to the Energy Safe Compliance Officer
  • Obtain a reference code from Energy Safe for that work.

Step 4

The electrician carries out the repairs – or substantial reconstruction of the PAL – to comply with the Act and Regulations. The electrician or REC completes a Certificate of Electrical Safety (COES) for the work.

Note: where the work is prescribed, the electrician or REC must complete a prescribed COES and ensure an inspection by a Licensed Electrical Inspector (LEI) in accordance with the Act and Regulations. See Prescribed and non-prescribed work for more information.

Step 5

In order to have the electricity supply restored, the electrician or REC contacts the electricity distribution company providing it with the reference code and COES for the work done.

Step 6

The distribution company attends the site and restores the electricity supply.

Step 7

The electrician or REC provides Energy Safe with a copy of the signed undertaking (noting the reference code provided) and the COES for the work done, within 5 business days of the work (as detailed in the undertaking form).

PAL inspections

Every year Victoria faces the risk of bushfires. Your electricity distribution company works closely with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) to reduce the risk of bushfires in Victoria by undertaking an extensive inspection and vegetation clearance program each year. Part of these programs includes the inspection of PALs.

Legislation authorises electricity distribution companies to enter private property to inspect and maintain electric lines.

There are set intervals between inspections of PALs – normally no later than 37 months, or under some circumstances, not exceeding five years from the date of the previous inspection.

An inspection may reveal that defects exist and repairs, maintenance or substantial reconstruction is required on a PAL on your property. If this is the case, the electricity distribution business will provide you with written notice of the work required to be carried out (a Defect Notice). Further re-inspections may then happen to check or verify that any defects have been addressed.

If an owner does not comply with requests from your distribution business to rectify the identified defects, the distribution company may escalate and refer the case to Energy Safe.

Unsafe electrical installations may be disconnected from the electricity supply by the electricity distributor, or caused to be disconnected by Energy Safe.

Vegetation management

Trees, shrubs and vegetation near powerlines can present a risk of fire. They can also damage aerial cables which may increase the risk of electric shock within an electrical installation, and result in the electrical installation no longer being supplied electricity as intended.

Owners of PAL have responsibility to ensure trees on their private property are kept clear of powerlines. They are responsible for the cutting of any trees on their property that may interfere with their own electric service line or private electric line, or a private electric line on an adjoining property.

For safety reasons it is recommended that trees be cut before they grow to either within:

  • 1m of an insulated electric service line
  • 2m of a bare wire electric service line.

If the trees are closer than the clearances above, or if cutting may cause any branches to fall onto electric lines, do not cut them yourself but contact a trained and experienced expert in vegetation management.

It is the responsibility of the electricity distribution company to maintain trees that are either:

  • near other electric lines that cross your boundary
  • within your property near the electric lines in the street.

Refer to Energy Safe's guide on rights and responsibilities in powerlines and vegetation management:

Powerlines and vegetation management brochure
PDF 1.23 MB
(opens in a new window)

Legislation

The legislation associated with PALs defines the point of supply and confirms your responsibility for maintenance of your private electric lines, including the need to keep trees clear of these lines.

A private electric line is described in the Act as

“any low voltage electric line used to take electricity from the point of supply, whether or not that line is vested in an electricity supplier”.

The Victorian Service and Installation Rules (SIR) also provide information on the Victorian Electricity Distributors' rules for the construction and maintenance of private electric lines.

Exemptions

Subject to an application for exemption in accordance with regulation 701 of the Regulations, and an assessment by Energy Safe, we may grant an exemption to permit a PAL to remain overhead.

For information about exemptions and how to lodge them, see Exemptions

Distributors' information

The Victorian Electricity Distributors have helpful brochures on their websites regarding Private Aerial Lines or Private Overhead Electric Lines, including illustrations of arrangements and the various points of supply, which may apply to your property:

If you are not sure about the arrangement on your property, or whether you have a PAL, you may contact your electricity distribution company.

Funding

From time to time, funding may be available for the undergrounding of PAL (or POEL) installations.

For further information please direct an enquiry to the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).

For more information

Contact us on 03 9203 9700 (business hours) and advise you have a query related to Private Aerial Lines or Private Overhead Electric Lines.

Date: 12/07/2024 13:54

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