ACT Minister for Climate Change and Energy Shane Rattenbury is looking into whether it is possible for him to intervene to prevent ActewAGL from going ahead with its plan to cut power to dozens of homes in Hughes and Hawker tomorrow, a day when Canberra’s temperature is set to soar to 38 degrees.
Speaking to media during the announcement of a new energy consumer advocate to represent consumers in energy policy and regulatory consultation processes, Mr Rattenbury said he was in contact with ActewAGL clarifying exactly what their policy position was in relation to tomorrow’s planned power outages.
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“Tomorrow is a particularly hot day for Canberra,” the Minister said.
“I think most people are sort of looking at this and kind of going is it common sense to be doing it on a day like today?
“I need to get to the bottom of what their policy is and look at whether we need to review that in light of the increasing number of hot days we are seeing in our community.”
He said he didn’t believe he had the capability to intervene.
“That’s something I’m having a look at at the moment,” he said.
The newly appointed energy consumer advocate, Eileen Newmarch, agreed the planned outage was problematic for many Canberrans.
“It’s an Actew decision that I don’t believe I have any input into at this stage,” she said.
Ms Newmarch’s position will complement the existing arrangements for ACT consumers. The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal remains the main avenue for resolution of energy consumer disputes, whereas the new energy consumer advocate will represent consumers in energy policy and regulatory consultation processes.
A financial counsellor, former public servant and member of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal energy and water team, Ms Newmarch will engage with the ACT’s lower income households, small businesses and non-government organisations.
The ACT Government and Energy Consumers Australia provided $50,000 each to jointly fund the advocacy position for two years. The role operates under a consortium arrangement led by ACTCOSS and including Care Financial Counselling Inc, the Canberra Business Chamber Small Business Taskforce, the Conservation Council of the ACT and SEEchange.
Members of the public can reach Ms Newmarch at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 6257 1788.
UPDATE: The ACT Government issued the below media release at 5.30pm on Thursday, a few hours after our original story …
ACT Government response to ActewAGL planned power outages
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman and Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury have issued the following statement regarding ActewAGL’s planned power outages tomorrow.
“As always, the health and safety of the Canberra community is the priority for the ACT Government. With temperatures expected to reach up to 37 degrees on Friday, the ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Kelly has issued a statement this afternoon reminding Canberrans to keep cool and hydrated, said Minister Gentleman.
“In light of the forecasted temperature, the ACT Government asked ActewAGL to review their planned power outages in parts of Hawker and Hughes which are scheduled for this Friday 13th of January.
“ActewAGL have advised the government that the work scheduled for tomorrow is essential, particularly in light of forecast storms which could present further risks and unplanned power outages if the maintenance works tomorrow do not go ahead.
“ActewAGL have also advised the government that residents have been informed of the planned outage and that the ACT Emergency Services Agency are ready and taking all precautions, they are working with ActewAGL to ensure that health of known vulnerable residents in the affected areas is not compromised,” concluded Mr Gentleman.
Minister for Energy and Climate Change Shane Rattenbury added:
“The ACT Government has an ‘Extreme Heat Plan’ which allows the government to intervene in planned power outages in certain circumstances. The plan can be activated where the mean temperature over a 24 hour period is equal to or greater than 28C over three consecutive days.1 Advice from the Bureau of Meteorology indicates this will not be the case so ActewAGL has decided to carry out the work as planned,” said Minister Rattenbury.
“In cases like these, while the temperature is uncomfortable, ActewAGL must also weigh up the risk of not carrying out the planned work and exposing the community to unplanned power outages if forecasted storms do take place. We have the Extreme Heat Plan to help guide these decisions.
“Unfortunately, climate change means that Canberrans will face more very hot days like tomorrow. While it is unfortunate that ActewAGL has to carry out essential works on a 37 degree day, it is also crucial that any potential storm hazards are removed to keep the community safe.
“The ACT Government urges all Canberrans to keep cool, protect yourself from the sun and keep an eye out for members of the community that may be vulnerable in hot weather,” concluded Minister Rattenbury.
1 The mean temperature is the calculated mean of the Bureau of Meteorology daily forecast maximum from one day and the subsequent night’s minimum temperature.