Loophole allows power sidestep

30 Oct, 2003 07:00 PM

NATIONAL Party leader Max Trenorden is seeking urgent action to close a legislative loophole that could lead to the lowering of standards for electricity supply in country areas.

In a report presented to State Parliament last week, the Director of Energy Safety Albert Koenig, said under the Electricity (Supply Standards and Systems Safety) Regulations 2001, Western Power could request that lower standards of electricity supply quality/reliability be approved for certain areas.

But he said it was understood that this was not Western Power's preferred option.

Mr Trenorden said the recommendations made by Mr Koenig were needed to lift the system to meet minimum requirements and deliver safe and reliable electricity to the Wheatbelt.

"All those regulations say if they really want to they will just lower the goal posts to a situation where they can supply it and say that's the minimum standard," Mr Trenorden said.

"We don't want a situation where the minister or Western Power says they are going to lower the standard because the standard is already substantially lower than the metropolitan area."

A spokesman for Energy Minister Eric Ripper said there was no intention to seek this option.

"What we've got to do is just continually work to improve standards and deliver what people have come to expect," he said.

"You can't do it all at once and you can't do it without reference to the whole system."

Mr Trenorden said he was working to introduce legislation that would amend the regulations during the current session of parliament.

"We'll be looking at trying to nail this down as firmly as we can," he said.

Mr Trenorden said he thought most people from areas identified in the report needing remedial action would be satisfied that something was going to be done, eventually.

"Those people will be pleased, but the problem is there is a whole raft of other people who haven't got that service," Mr Trenorden said.

But it was up to the State Government to provide Western Power with the extra funding identified by the Office of Energy Safety (OES) to get the job done.

"Western Power should go straight to the government and say Œwhere's the $49 million¹," Mr Trenorden said.

He said the State Government took $200 million from Western Power's budget and didn't provide for community service obligations (CSOs) to fund necessary but commercially unviable services for taxpayers.

"So there is no extra place for this $49 million to come from," he said.

"The state has to make a decision to make it available because it is taking the full dividend out of Western Power and leaving them with very little capital."

Mr Ripper's spokesman said Western Power had a much longer range plan, looking at the whole system, how it tie together and where the work needed to be done.

"They'll take on board what the Director of Energy Safety says but they can't do that in isolation," he said.

Releasing the report last week, Mr Ripper said more than $950 million would be spent on transmission and distribution improvements in WA during the next four years.

But his spokesman said Western Power would need to find the $48.4 million funding from existing allocations or seek extra funding.

He said the problems identified by the report had been the result of the electricity supply network deteriorating over a long period of time.

It was nonsense to suggest that these problems had arisen in the past couple of years and previous State governments had contributed to the situation, the spokesman said.

OES director Albert Koenig said Western Power should be more proactive in monitoring the performance of the whole network and take necessary action to ensure its reliability was acceptable and its capacity adequate.

"Although the complaints process is useful for identifying problem areas it should not be seen as the principal means for either identifying or prioritising remedial action programs," Mr Koenig said.

Mr Trenorden said the probe into the state of the electricity network had been initiated by the Koorda meeting in January and the determination of people affected by electricity shortages to voice their concerns.

"People wrote to the regulator and made their point so forcibly that they made Western Power and the State Government follow through to the amount they've already done," Mr Trenorden said.



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