5 January 2022

Thousands still without power as emergency storm response continues

| Karyn Starmer
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tree down on road

At the height of the storm, around 21,000 homes and businesses were without power across Belconnen and Gungahlin. Photo: Melanie Broadbent.

Around 2500 Canberra households remain without power following the severe thunderstorms that lashed Canberra’s northern suburbs on Monday (3 January).

The storm caused extensive damage to homes and infrastructure with Evoenergy reporting critical damage to the ACT’s electricity network.

At the height of the storm, about 21,000 homes and businesses were without power across Belconnen and Gungahlin and, as of Wednesday 5 January 2022, 2497 remain without power.

Evoenergy says it is rotating all available staff on shifts to manage the response and restore power as quickly and safely as possible but it expects some homes and businesses may remain without power until tomorrow.

Evoenergy Acting General Manager Alison Davis says the damage to the electricity network is the most severe observed in the ACT for many years.

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“At Evoenergy we’ve seen serious and extreme conditions, but the weather on Monday afternoon has resulted in some of the worst damage to our network on record,” Ms Davis said.

“Our crews are highly trained and are continuing to work as safely and quickly as possible, but working to repair the type of damage we’ve assessed over the past two days is complex, time-consuming and incredibly challenging.

“Our crews are working meticulously and methodically to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers and the broader community, as efforts continue around the clock.

“We’re working closely with the ACT Emergency Services Agency to prioritise the assessments of damage and conduct repairs. We’re coordinating efforts to ensure we’re as efficient and effective as possible as we work through the high volume of incidents.

“Right now, I want to assure Canberrans that we’ll keep going till we get the job done.”

With further storms forecast this week Evoenergy says it is carefully planning resourcing over the coming days to ensure it has crews available in the event of more extreme weather.

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The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a very high chance of showers for the remainder of the week and into early next week with thunderstorms likely and possibly severe.

Heavy rainfall is possible on Friday increasing the risk of flash flooding.

For information on reported storm-related incidents visit Evoenergy, for information about weather warnings visit BOM and for the ACT Emergency Services Agency response visit ESA.

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The ACT Gov regularly blocks residents who want to remove dangerous trees on their blocks. Well done.

HiddenDragon6:40 pm 06 Jan 22

The problem here is inappropriately large trees in the wrong places. It doesn’t matter when they were planted and/or who planted them.

The issue now (as it has been for many years in this town) is the mentality which seems almost like a tree cult that has taken over the relevant bits of officialdom, with the result that unless a tree stands in the way of something that the government, or one of its powerful mates, wants to do then the tree will be protected – regardless of the potential risks it presents to people and their homes.

Anything more than a very token response to these problem trees is highly unlikely, and Canberrans who approach every “storm season” with a sense of foreboding, and with both hands tied behind their backs when it comes to over-sized trees, will continue to be on the receiving end of the glibly infuriating advice from our government about the need to prepare their homes for the coming storms.

I thought that [ACTEW / Evo / whatever rebadged bandits] conducted helicopter/drone/satellite “inspections” of lines to ensure clearances. They used to walk the forest corridors on foot and mark up trees for removal, and drive the streets to identify which brilliantly-selected eucalypts needed to be clipped or chipped.

Kinda suspect that the inspections just haven’t been happening in recent years. Can’t prove it, but have zero trust in an ACT Gub’mint business (yes it is, with ex-ALP execs and CEOs). If the network conducts its business like the ACT bureaucrats, there’s zero checks occurring.

Capital Retro6:20 am 07 Jan 22

The focus is on installing smart meters, usually by stealth.

They used to send letters advising that inspectors would need access to backyards to inspect power poles.

Hello, most suburbs around where I live have underground power.

Smart meters indeed.

Capital Retro,
Every time I think your statements can’t get more ludicrous, you outdo yourself.

Firstly, why on earth wouldn’t you want a smart meter and secondly, they can’t replace or inspect anything without sending you those letters you mention. By stealth? hilarious from you. How paranoid can you get.

For Acog, here you go, the type of inspections you talk about are ongoing. But obviously are more directed at vegetation that encroaches on powerlines rather than where trees could potentially fall over on them. Nothing has changed.


Capital Retro10:21 am 07 Jan 22

And you really need to go to Specsavers because you are not understanding what I am saying.

Capital Retro,
I’m responding to the actual words you wrote and the dictionary definition of them. If you’re attempting to convey other meanings, perhaps you should try again.

“The focus is on installing smart meters, usually by stealth.”

Simply false. Provide a shred of evidence to support it. Links please.

“They used to send letters advising that inspectors would need access to backyards to inspect power poles.”

And they still do, where it’s required. I had one last year and other maintenance activities occurred in my street.

“Hello, most suburbs around where I live have underground power.”

In newer suburbs, power is now underground. So of course no one would be inspecting poles in those areas, there’s no point to this sentence. Whatever weird conspiracy you’re trying to push, you’ll have to provide some evidence.

They still do – I received a letter advising me to have vegetation trimmed last summer and so did about 10,000 other people at the same time. The small number of arborists certified to do the work were booked up for months.

This does of course only focus on trees that are growing into the power lines, not trees some distance away which could fall into them in a storm.

chewy14, about the smart meters, there might be something in what CR is saying. EvoEnergy decided to replace my old meter with a smart meter late last year. I was preoccupied when I received the letter informing me about it and didn’t pay a lot of attention – and like you said, a smart meter sounded useful. Then I read it more carefully the day before the installation and discovered in the fine print that I would be moved to a time-of-use plan in 12 months whether I want that or not. The pricing of the time-of-use plan is such that I will be worse off. The peak price is so much more expensive than the off-peak and shoulder prices that no amount of adjusting when I have a shower, run the dishwasher or do laundry could make up for the fridge and heater (in winter) being on during the day. I will need to change electricity providers to avoid this.

I allowed the technician to go ahead with installing the smart meter because his job instructions said my meter was faulty. However, when I later called EvoEnergy they said there was some problem with that type of meter in general, not with mine specifically, and they were replacing all of them. Considering it had been on the house for 50 years, it had taken a long time for this ‘fault’ to be discovered. And two months later, I still don’t have access to the usage data from the smart meter.

Capital Retro9:30 am 09 Jan 22

I asked several times what was the fault with my old meter and who decided it was faulty (I didn’t report it as such) but I got no response.

With my experience and Nightshade’s there’s the proof you need chewy.

By the way chewy, what is “smart” about this new meter? It would have to be pretty good to be smarter than you!

And Nightshade, I changed providers 6 months ago and with senior’s concessions applied (new provider mentioned they were available but ActewAGL never mentioned them before), and my electricity bill has halved!

You can change your electricity plan with the smart meter:

And just because you can’t remember your old meter being changed in the past, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. They are typically changed over every 10-20 years.

As for whether you’ll pay more, there is actually plenty you can do to change habits to reduce usage in peak loads.

But If you truly think you’ll pay more, have a think about what has actually been occurring in the past. The costs to the electricity companies are the same, the overall bills across the customer base are the same. But you’ve been utilising more expensive peak power usage, which means other customers have been subsidising you.

The smart meter actually allows true network costs to be apportioned better to those who are using more energy when it’s expensive and network capacity is challenged. In this way, it encourages people to use less energy during these periods, which allows more efficient network usage and lowers costs for everyone.

Capital Retro,
See my answers to Nightshade.

As for your “question”:

“I asked several times what was the fault with my old meter and who decided it was faulty (I didn’t report it as such) but I got no response.”

It’s almost like the company that owns and maintains the meters might know more about them than you do relating to what their accurate lifespans and certifications are.

And they might also know more about the benefits of smart meters in managing both your own power usage as well as the entire grid itself.

Strange huh?

Capital Retro12:11 pm 09 Jan 22

That’s a very lame response, even from you and I know you are aware that the meters are owned by another entity (Macquarie Meters) and managed by another (Acumen).

Neither Actew, EvoEnergy or the two entities named above have sent me any information as to why I now have a smart meter or what it does to “help me”.
By the way, I was also billed over $700 for it.

Capital Retro,
You really don’t like anything new and automatically hate change don’t you?

Also, why were you charged $700? There is no upfront costs for the meter replacements unless other work is being done.

And I’ve already given you some of the reasons why the smart meter can help you. For someone who complains about high electricity prices so much, I would have thought you’d appreciate the ability to manage and reduce your electricity bill with the information that a smart meter provides. Along with the reduced costs that come from your electricity distributor being able to more efficiently manage the grid.

Seems just like with your support of coal, you actually like paying more for some strange reason.

chewy14, my point about the time-of-day pricing is that certain appliances run all the time – like fridges. I’m not going to turn off my fridge all day and only run it late at night. It seems to me that the pricing of the peak tier is so much higher than the other tiers that even if I do every discretionary activity in the middle of the night, I will still pay more than currently. The only incentive that is giving me is to change providers. And I have found someone good to switch to.

I’m actually an extreme night owl and do most discretionary things at odd times compared with most people, but still come out worse with the time-of-day pricing. That was surprising as I thought it might work out well for me.

chew14, regarding my meter having been changed in the past, I’ve owned the house for 16 years and it definitely hasn’t been changed in that time. Regarding changing plans, after 12 months the only one that EvoEnergy will allow me to have is the time-of-use pricing plan. But it’s OK, I’ve found another provider who offers much better plans.

I know some appliances run all the day but the main drivers of electricity use for a typical house are heating/cooling and hot water usage. Typically this is 60-70% of all demand and definitely has discretionary components.

And as I said before, the electricity retailers and distributors are heavily regulated and can only make a certain amount of profit, so if you think time of use pricing would cost you more then it’s usually because you use more electricity during peak periods and other customers have been subsidising you in the past.

With your comment around retailers, people should always shop around for the best deals. But you should be aware that the retailers basically have identical fixed underlying distributor costs (there’s only one electricity distributor in the ACT, Evoenergy) and the differences in retail price are more around how they manage that retail component and customer service to you.

Capital Retro11:15 am 11 Jan 22

I’ve already written elsewhere that I have halved my electricity bill by changing suppliers so I am not complaining anymore, am I. There is no scope to change the way I consume electricity either so a “smart” meter is totally useless to me but a good device for the supplier to control our consumption apparently.

I have no idea why I was charged $700 and no other work is being done.

And when you refer to “grid managers efficiently managing the grid” I don’t recall any problems until renewables came along.

Capital Retro12:07 pm 11 Jan 22

Good to see you have also “seen the light” and changed providers, Nightshade.

Capital Retro,
So many things wrong with that last comment.

“I’ve already written elsewhere that I have halved my electricity bill by changing suppliers so I am not complaining anymore, am I.”

Yes, but you still claimed to be avoiding the mandated government caused price increase despite my explanations how that wasnt possible in the ACT, due to its linkages role our sole electricity distributorthat you are forced to use. Your comments just highlighted that you’d previously signed up to an unsuitable electricity deal and then switched to a better one. Well done.

“There is no scope to change the way I consume electricity either”

Well you’ve already admitted your ignorance here repeatedly so I suppose I can let this ridiculous statement slide. Hardly surprising that you were on an unsuitable deal if you actually believe this.

“I have no idea why I was charged $700 and no other work is being done.”

Oh well, sort of fits in with your clear willingness to pay more for nothing.

“And when you refer to “grid managers efficiently managing the grid” I don’t recall any problems until renewables came along.”

Also not surprising. You don’t seem to “recall” anything that doesn’t fit your predetermined narrative. But regardless, these issues always have existed, whether you knew about them or not.

Did you get charged the $700 before or after you changed suppliers?

Reason being with the separation of retail and poles and wires when you change suppliers they often replace the meter with theirs. The cost may well be part of your change over cost.

If it wasn’t then dispute it as you shouldn’t be charged for a new meter unless you requested it. And even then I’d you “request” it as part of a solar installation they normally waive that cost anymore.

Oh as for the old meters after 50 years their accuracy waivers. That’s why they are being replaced. That may cost you more of the old meter was under charging and cost you less if you was over charging.

Capital Retro5:16 pm 11 Jan 22

Yes, JC before I changed providers. It was for a 3 phase smart meter.

There are no poles and wires where I live.

It wasn’t requested.

The original meter (1995) failed about 2010 (full of tiny ants from country of manufacture) and was replaced free of charge. The cost of ActewAGL electricity just kept rising after the “smart” meter was installed.

Capital Retro,
Why did you need a 3 phase meter?

Sounds like you aren’t telling the whole story.

Were you installing a new solar system at the time?

Were you installing other high electricity use appliances that might have required capacity upgrades? ie Air Conditioners, heating etc?

You wouldn’t have been charged for a simple replacement meter due to the old one failing.

If you were, as JC says, you can challenge it. For someone so worried about high bills, it’s telling that you haven’t done that.

Capital Retro10:14 pm 11 Jan 22

The house had 3-phase power when I bought it. There were a lot in-built 2400w electric wall heaters in it. I threw them out and put in RC heat pump heating and cooling about 15 years ago. There was originally only one meter but for some reason they decided to put in one for the three phase which never draws power anyhow.

Stop looking for the fifth leg on the cat, chewy.

Well seeing as you have shown a penchant for deliberate mistruths, I’ll take your statements with the wheelbarrow of salt they deserve.

But now you’ve been advised to clearly challenge the charge based on your own information, do let us know how it turns out and what response you get (which they legally have to provide). Won’t hold my breath.

Is it time to consider taking the electricity underground, starting with the more vulnerable parts of the network? Per house, the cost would probably be less than the disruption costs from these increasingly regular events.

Is it me or does Belco seem to be a ‘hail and mini cyclone” corridor? Agree. Evoenergy needs to step up. Of course they will come cap in hand to ACT Govt for a handout.
Bit like Telstra really.

Capital Retro12:00 pm 06 Jan 22

Most of the newer suburbs in Tuggers have underground power.

The latest on the Evoenergy outages page indicates most places still without power now are unlikely to have it back till Sunday. That really is unaaceptable, 3rd world level service.

Whilst not good, maybe stop and think for a while as to why that would be. Clearly the damage to the distribution network is large enough that it will take that time. The effected area Is largely overhead wires on poles. Not a five minute fix.

3rd world btw you would be having daily issues and if a storm hit like it did here you would be waiting months or having unskilled labourers up poles tapping into an already overloaded network.

Capital Retro12:01 pm 06 Jan 22

Are your beloved trams still running, JC?

Interestingly, a couple of times when I’ve criticised Evoenergy on Twitter yesterday, I got prompt responses defending them and telling me I’m being unreasonable, from accounts with no followers and only created in January 2022. It’s as if Evo has employed a troll army. 🙂

Not including you in that by the way, I was just amused by it. Look I know they have a big job but 6 days without power is really s***.

I’m betting if they put the resources together that would allow them to fix these problems really quickly, the same people whinging about the delay would be whinging about the increase in their bills to fund it.

Probably. Although I think we’re already paying premium level prices.

Capital Retro5:54 pm 05 Jan 22

Damn climate change!

Being without power for 2-3 days is a consequence of the ACT Government planting gum trees throughout the suburbs of Belconnen and Gungahlin.
Gum trees are totally unsuitable for suburban areas. They litter constantly, burn fiercely, snap easily and fall catastrophically in high winds.
Inner suburbs are not as badly affected by falling trees in storms because stronger more flexible deciduous trees predominate. They also look better in spring and autumn.
Now is the time for residents of Belconnen and Gungahlin to insist these arboreal Mr Fluffys be replaced.

We have backyard power lines here in NW Belconnen. Not sure how you can blame the ACT Government for what people planted in their backyards 50 years ago. Though you can blame them if they’ve refused permission to trim or remove dangerous trees.

We’re without power and our understanding is that it won’t be restored for several days. Which is making WFH interesting. I have some sympathy for Evo. They didn’t plant hundreds of peppermint gums and other inappropriate trees next to the powerlines 30 years ago. I hope someone realises now that these need to be removed, although it won’t be an easy task.

Capital Retro6:58 pm 05 Jan 22

On 1 January 2018, the part of ActewAGL that operates and maintains our ACT electricity and gas network changed its name to Evoenergy so it was the same entity that planted the trees.

I don’t have any sympathy for them at all.

Didn’t know that Evo or any of its predecessors or even government planted trees in peoples back yards now or at anytime in the last 50 years or so since the homes in this area where built.

Capital Retro9:14 am 06 Jan 22

A lot of “street” trees have fallen on powerlines, JC.

Not all Canberra suburbs have powerlines in their backyards.

Yes that’s a very strange claim, that unsurprisingly doesn’t have supporting evidence to back it up.

Why on earth would CR think an electricity supplier planted the trees. Mind boggling.

And if a government was responsible, it was the Federal Government, who was in charge at the time the areas were built.

I’m not in a position to apportion responsibility for the trees except in relation to my immediate neighbourhood. The tree that cut off our power was in a backyard. It would have been planted by a previous house owner some decades ago. A number of street trees fell over too. They were street plantings from the early 1970s. The old National Capital Development Commission may have had something to do with that, but I can’t be sure. They probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

I had no idea ACTEW AGL was in the tree-planting game. If they were, then that’s not great, but I would be surprised if they planted the ones that fell over near us.

Capital Retro12:09 pm 06 Jan 22

I know you like to split hairs chewy so lets accept that Actew/Evo or whatever name they use/used are owned/controlled by the ACT Government so it’s fair to say the government made the decision.

Also, despite what you are saying, a lot of suburbs don’t have powerlines in their back yards and there are lots of street powerlines. Go for a drive.

Capital Retro,
There’s nothing remotely “splitting hairs” about it.

The company didn’t exist when most of these trees were planted and have never been involved in anything remotely like that type of activity.

They are a corporate entity only half owned by the government and half owned by private interests, so attempting to link them to trees falling over is absolute garbage.

On the same point, we also didn’t have self government when a lot of these trees were planted, so even blaming the ACT Government is stretching it.

And lastly, despite your claims, almost all older suburbs have backyard powerlines because that’s where they put the easements for all services at the time and the way the suburbs were designed. I don’t need to go for “a drive”, they can easily be seen on the ACT mapping system and the easement layer.

There are very few overhead powerlines in the ACT that run along streets and would be subject to government planted nature strips.

Sure there are some in every (older) suburb but for the most part the power lines in suburban ACT run in the backyards. This was another of those NCDC design decisions all those years ago to shield us from pesky visual pollution from overhead wires. Something I know you are so passionate about.

Oh and to answer your question above re light rail it’s running fine. It has been designed with redundant power feeds and is underground. So all good. Besides the storm the other day went past Gungahlin, my place was right on the edge of the storm. The centre of the storm the other day cut across Belconnen towards Hall.

It doesn’t really matter that much who planted the trees. The facts are that inappropriate trees were planted near powerlines and rather than removing them, it’s been left to
mother nature to bring them down.

The questions are: 1. What will they be replaced with and
2. Will the ACT Government now remove trees that potentially damage infrustructure?

People in Belconnen really need to lobby the Government and demand they
sharpen some axes.

All fixed, I was expecting a few more days of no power; they seem to be getting through the work.

As a resident of the affected area in northwest Belconnen, I can confirm that we have backyard power lines and the trees growing near them are in people’s backyards. The tree that knocked out my power certainly was.

What authority does the ACT Government have to start chopping down trees on private land? The only scope I see for government involvement is in granting permission to remove trees where homeowners request it. Replacements would be up to the homeowner.

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