30th Dec 2016
Compensation should be increased for power customers affected by prolonged outages, the South Australian Government has said, as residents in the Adelaide Hills endure a third day without electricity.
Thousands of properties remained cut off from the state’s electricity network after wild weather brought down about 350 power lines on Tuesday night.
Some of the towns affected include Stirling, Bridgewater, Crafers and Balhannah, with properties in the state’s Mid North also without power.
About 155,000 properties were blacked out at the peak of the storm and phones, internet services and traffic lights were also affected.
SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis has asked the Essential Services Commission of SA to see whether compensation could be increased to households affected by power outages.
Under the privatisation of the SA power network in 1999, payments to blacked-out households are paid out by the hour for blackouts between 12 and 48 hours.
Mr Koutsantonis said he wanted ESCOSA to remove the limit.
“Whether you’ve had your power out for 90 hours of 48 hours you get the same money,” he said.
“I have today written to ESCOSA asking them to review the general services level payment to see if we can’t remove the cap.”
Businesses suffer large losses in blackout
Many hotels and businesses across South Australia were forced to close as a result of the power outages and perishables have been thrown out, resulting in huge stock losses.
SA Independent Retailers chief executive officer Colin Shearing said several supermarkets had to throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of stock.
“We’re still experiencing impacts from the previous massive blackout we had in the state,” he said.
“And now with these peculiar storms we’re having, we’re still seeing that the cost of getting the business back operationally is hugely expensive to the business.”
Australian Hotels Association general manager Ian Horne said several pubs were forced to close during one of the busiest trading periods of the year.
He said business insurance would only provide compensation for some of the damage and losses.
“Most businesses you would think would have a component of this, but it wouldn’t cover all of the costs, and what happens is … you make a claim and the premiums go up,” Mr Horne said.
SA Power Networks said on its website that those who had suffered damages or losses as a result of power interruptions could also be entitled for a separate claim of compensation.
Independent federal senator Nick Xenophon said he would join forces with his colleague, SA MLC John Darley, to push for an increase to the level of compensation available.
He also wants increased penalties for electricity distributors if the length of the outage is due to inadequate staffing and resourcing levels.
“A bill will be introduced into the SA Parliament in February to implement the changes, with a safeguard that the costs involved in the increased compensation and penalties must not be passed on to consumers,” Senator Xenophon said.
Hills towns a priority for reconnections
SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts said they had enough maintenance crews to deal with the damages despite staff cuts earlier this year.
“We have about double the number of field crews that the [State] Government had when it sold the old electricity trust in 1999,” he said.
“We believe we have sufficient resources, and it’s also about how we manage those resources.”
Mr Roberts said there were some single-customer outages that were not considered as high priority as restoring electricity to townships.
“Today we’ll be swinging a huge number of our crews into the Adelaide Hills where there has been significant damage from trees,” he said.
He said some individual properties might not be reconnected until Saturday.