A little persistence goes a long way! - TasNetworks
In August 2016, Mrs C, from Latrobe in North-West Tasmania, made a complaint to me that she had been denied two Guaranteed Service Level (GSL) payments following two outages of twelve and eight hours respectively during storm events on 6 and 21 June 2016.
Mrs C had approached TasNetworks about the GSL payments but was informed that it had no records to indicate her property had been disconnected during the weather events.
My officer made enquiries with TasNetworks and spoke to Mrs C on several occasions. Mrs C was frustrated with the situation but believed there was little chance that she would receive any GSL payments. TasNetworks was adamant that she had not been affected by the outages, as she claimed, and continued to refuse to make payment to her.
Mrs C’s primary concern was that she and her partner were aging and she was now seeking reassurance that TasNetworks would be aware of any issues relating to her supply in the event of any future outages. The GSL payments were the catalyst for her raising the issue with me.
My officers were of the view that there was no reason to doubt Mrs C so, armed with a map of the local distribution network, travelled to Latrobe to speak with her and her neighbour. After some discussion with Mrs C, they drove around the general area to gain an understanding of the local network and the particular feeder supplying Mrs C. Information provided by TasNetworks suggested that Mrs C was supplied from a transformer in her street that TasNetworks had confirmed had not gone out during the weather events.
The map showed conductors from another nearby transformer ending just short of Mrs C’s street that had disconnected during the storms. My officers noticed that, in fact, the conductors connected to the network on Mrs C’s street and that it may be possible that she was connected from this transformer.
Following further discussion with TasNetworks it was found that the map provided was incorrect and Mrs C was indeed being supplied by a different transformer than first thought, and which had been disconnected at the times claimed by Mrs C.
TasNetworks provided the applicable GSL payments to Mrs C and her neighbours and Mrs C can now be confident that the source of her electricity supply is known to TasNetworks.
Electricity infrastructure on private land - who pays? TasNetworks
In August 2016, I closed complaints from Ms A and Mr & Mrs F regarding liability to repair high voltage electricity infrastructure crossing Ms A’s private land on the East coast of Tasmania that supplied her and Mr & Mrs F. There are three poles to Ms A’s residence, the third being a transformer pole. At the second pole, the supply branches off to Mr & Mrs F’s neighbouring property some distance away.
An aerial survey of the network in the area found, and photographed, a high voltage conductor which had disconnected from the insulator on the metal cross arm of the first pole and was sitting directly on the cross arm. Unfortunately, this defect was not acted on for almost two weeks after first being detected. When TasNetworks became aware of the issue, however, the supply to Ms A and Mr & Mrs F was disconnected almost immediately and repairs were undertaken.
Both Ms A and Mr & Mrs F made complaints to me about the timing of the disconnection - around 5.30 pm on a winter’s evening - and the cost to them to have emergency repairs made to the infrastructure.
TasNetworks informed me that it was not made aware of the fault due to staffing issues with the aerial surveying company and when it was made aware of the fault it believed there was a very high safety risk that required immediate action necessitating the disconnection of supply and making repairs.
I accept that TasNetworks is responsible for safety issues and that its decision to disconnect, when it became aware of the issue, was reasonable in the circumstances. A high voltage conductor rubbing on a metal cross arm poses a serious risk to both the TasNetworks network and to any members of the public who may have been near the conductor if it were to fail and fall to the ground.
The complainants believed that the electricity infrastructure, on Ms A’s land, was owned by TasNetworks. TasNetworks insisted the first two poles were private and owned by Ms A and the third pole, with the transformer, was owned by it.
Ms A could not produce any evidence to support her claim that TasNetworks owned the infrastructure.
This issue has been raised with me over a number of years. The ownership of, and responsibility for, electricity infrastructure on private land is not clear, particularly to landowners. There appears to be little information available to determine just what arrangements were in place at the time the infrastructure was installed in the days long before TasNetworks became the responsible entity.
Access to private electricity infrastructure - all hands are tied! - TasNetworks
Mr H submitted a complaint to me after he was advised by TasNetworks that it could not access his neighbour’s property to undertake repairs to the electricity infrastructure connecting his rural residence.
The connection to Mr H’s property is by way of three poles on his neighbour’s property. The first pole is a transformer pole, owned by TasNetworks, which also connects the neighbour’s residence. The next two poles are solely to facilitate the connection to Mr H’s property and, as such, TasNetworks consider him responsible for the maintenance of those poles and associated conductors.
A part of the infrastructure connecting Mr H was condemned and required attention, but his neighbour would not allow access to his land to make repairs. The neighbour could not deny supply to Mr H, but TasNetworks, or a private contractor, could not demand access to the private infrastructure if the neighbour refused it.
The dispute was clearly a private one and outside my jurisdiction to investigate. It was a matter for Mr H to arrange access to his neighbour’s land and I accept that TasNetworks was not in a position to demand access. This matter had a significant impact on Mr H as any alternative route of supply would be very expensive for him.
As the impasse dragged on, the electricity supply to Mr H was eventually disconnected and remained disconnected for some time. This is one of a number of examples of the frustration caused to rural electricity consumers in Tasmania with the uncertainty that exists around the ownership of, and responsibility for, private electricity infrastructure.
High bill disputed - Aurora Energy
Mr F approached my office as he believed his Aurora Energy electricity accounts were excessive. He asserted that his family had minimal electrical appliances and was very cautious in its use of electricity.
My IO obtained details of conversations between Aurora Energy and Mr F together with a table of consumption from the time Mr F moved in to the residence.
The table of consumption demonstrated very high consumption on tariff 31 (tenant light & power) with clear seasonal fluctuations. Consumption on tariff 41 (residential space heating & hot water) was quite high but consistent. The charge for energy under tariff 31 is higher than tariff 41.
Mr F had informed Aurora Energy that he had until very recently, utilised plug-in heating wired to tariff 31 but had now installed a heat pump wired to tariff 41. For the period following the instillation of the heat pump, the tariff 31 consumption had fallen significantly and tariff 41 charges had risen, reflecting the change from plug-in to wired-in heating.
My officer was able to provide a detailed explanation to Mr F about the impact of each of the tariffs on his energy bills and how he could now expect his accounts to reduce if he no longer relied on plug-in heating.