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Energy Safe issues dozens of fines since receiving new line clearance powers

Tuesday 4 July 2023 at 11:08 pm

Energy Safe Victoria has issued 36 line clearance fines to councils and major electricity companies that have failed to keep trees clear of powerlines over the past 12 months.

Contact between trees and powerlines can result in fires, electrocution and power outages, which can lead to property damage and, in serious cases, injury and loss of life.

To reduce community risk, the energy safety regulator received new powers in June 2022, under the Electricity Safety Act 1998, to issue fines for specific line clearance breaches. Each fine is worth $4,623

The powers are an addition to existing regulatory responses, such as issuing warnings or prosecutions through the court system.

Over the past year, 21 fines have been issued to some major electricity companies that are responsible for maintaining trees near powerlines on private land and regional public land. Of the 21 fines, 10 were issued to Powercor, six to United Energy and five to AusNet Services.

Councils, which are responsible for maintaining trees near powerlines on urban public land, received 15 fines. Glen Eira City Council and City of Melbourne each received four fines, Maroondah City Council received three and Bayside City Council and the City of Casey both received two.

Energy Safe considers various factors, including the severity of the non-compliance and the responsible person’s conduct when deciding whether to take enforcement action.

The energy safety regulator is most likely to issue fines when the non-compliance poses a high safety risk and to prosecute for serious or systemic safety issues or where recklessness and negligent conduct can be proved.   

Energy Safe CEO Leanne Hughson said major electricity companies and councils were expected to keep Victorians and the electricity network safe via acceptable line clearance programs.

“These fines have allowed us to quickly call out circumstances where electricity companies and councils have failed in their obligations,” Ms Hughson said.

“They also serve as a deterrent to companies and councils that think they can cut corners.”

To highlight the dangers of trees being too close to powerlines, ESV has produced a short animation, which also alerts the community to the line clearance responsibilities across Victoria.

You can view the animation here.

Details: esv.vic.gov.au.

Note: Payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a breach of law. Energy Safe can issue infringements where they have reason to believe a person has committed an offence

Media contact: Adrian Bernecich 0437 729 194