Power Companies Switch Off Life Support Without Warning

By Alan Cheung
Alan Cheung
Alan Cheung
September 19, 2018 Updated: September 19, 2018

Power companies have switched off life support 30 times in two years without telling people on life support about planned interruptions, Australian Energy Regulator (AER) stated.

They are meant to give written notice to people on life support four days in advance of a planned interruption.

“It is imperative that these customers receive advanced notice of any planned interruption to their energy supply, so they can make alternative plans. This reduces any risk of harm occurring or more serious consequences for those customers,” AER Chair Paula Conboy said on Sept. 19.

So far, no one has died as a result of these surprise interruptions.

“Customers relying on life support equipment are particularly vulnerable and any unexpected loss of supply can have dangerous, and even fatal consequences,” Conboy said.

The Australian Energy Regulator has fined those companies about half a million dollars in total.

No one has been notified since July 2016 and seven of those interruptions have occurred in the previous two and a half months.

In the 2016/17 financial year, the AER issued 14 notices that totaled to $280,000 in fines, while in the previous financial year, nine notices came to a total of $180,000.

TasNetworks and Energex were each issued a notice on Sept. 11 that fined them $80,000 and $60,000 respectively.

As a result of their infringements, an independent auditor is required to ensure Energex has adequate systems and processes in place to ensure that those on life support can be protected. TasNetworks has provided additional assurances to the AER that they’re going to reduce potential sources of errors and implement a training refresher for their staff.

According to the National Energy Retail Law and the National Energy Retail Rules, the AER may send out an auditor or ask a retailer or distributor to check power companies for compliance. Starting February 2019, new laws will be added to further protect people on life support. The new rules will improve the accuracy of life support registers and allocate the responsibilities clearly to retailers and distributors.

Number of infringements between 2016 and 2018:

  • Ausgrid – 9
  • Endeavor Energy – 1
  • Ergon Energy – 1
  • Energex – 10
  • ActewAGL/Evoenergy – 2
  • TasNetworks – 7
Alan Cheung