If you live in the northern suburbs of Gungahlin, you’ve probably experienced at least one of the six power outages over the last month. These have generally occurred around 6.30pm – just as people are getting home from work, cooking dinner and getting the kids ready for bed.
If you haven’t experienced these outages, I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this can be. The residents of Ngunnawal, Bonner, Amaroo, Forde, Jacka and Moncrieff are rightly fed up.
These outages have been caused by cable faults, tripped safety settings and in one instance third party damage.
ActewAGL is right to point out that third party damage is not their fault. It is however disingenuous for ActewAGL to lay the blame for the other more numerous network failings onto a one off third party incident.
Fair and reasonable Canberrans understand that no electricity network is without fault.
What most Gungahlin residents cannot understand, however, is that ActewAGL refuses to accept any blame for the outages.
In a statement by ActewAGL General Manager Energy Networks Stephen Devlin noted that: “ActewAGL cannot and does not guarantee 100 percent uninterrupted supply of electricity. While the outages have been inconvenient, compensation is not available as they have not been caused by our negligence or breach of contract.”
I have to say that I find this response disappointing.
Under law, ActewAGL is required to meet certain guaranteed service levels. These relate to the regularity in which a disruption occurs and when it does occur how long it takes to address the issue. In a standard calendar year, there should be on average 1.2 planned and unplanned power outages. If you are unfortunate enough to experience a blackout the lights should be back on in 91 minutes.
On average across Canberra, ActewAGL performs well on these measures. As shown in their 2015-16 Annual Report, the average number of blackout incidences was 0.85 and the average duration was 70 minutes.
But if you’ve ever tried to cross a river, the average isn’t a useful measure. What matters is how deep it is at any one point. Similarly, average measures across Canberra don’t provide much solace to Gungahlin residents who’ve had the lights go out numerous times over the last month.
ActewAGL has a good track record and that’s why their targets are set high. They’ve maintained goodwill in the community by providing a high-quality service. But that goodwill is under threat by these outages. ActewAGL should do the right thing by the residents who have been affected and offer them a rebate on their next power bill.
What do RiotAct readers think? Is compensation fair in this circumstance, or are outages just a fact of life we have to put up with?