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Today's quote:

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Looking a Trojan horse in the mouth


As part of our regular network asset risk management program ... Essential Energy has recently completed a routine inspection of the electricity network assets located on your property. This included some assets that have been identified as your privately-owned power poles and power lines."

This letter made me the proud owner of a huge power pole! At first glance, being dated 1 December 2021, I thought this to be an early Christmas present, but then the old Scrooge in me said, "Bah! Humbug! They're doing some clever load-shedding - financial load-shedding!"

You see, some months earlier, a big tree branch had fallen on the power line, which had caused the very same power pole to be pulled askew despite the huge stay wire that secured it. The then still very nice people from Essential Energy rolled up with a big crew and a crane, a cherry-picker, and a huge auger, straightened the pole, drilled a new hole in the ground for the stay wire, and reconnected the fallen power line, all at no cost to me because this was their pole --- until now!

Some bean-counter in their office must've found this exercise rather expensive, because some time later an inspector showed up, removed the previous ID tag from the pole and replaced it with a shiny yellow "PP40217", the "PP" meaning "Private Pole" and the "40217" suggesting I was the 40217th customer who had this sleight of hand done to him.



Or perhaps not exactly the 40217th, because I am aware of "genuine" private poles, usually small metal poles, which householders instal at their own expense to run a thin powerline from the overhead service. There are at least two private poles in Sproxton Lane alone, which the owners installed so as not to run the powerline in the most direct route across their property which is what Essential Energy would have done.

This is what makes, in my opinion, my powerpole NOT a private pole:

  • neither I nor the previous owners for some fifty years (whose son confirmed this) have ever installed this pole although Essential Energy seems to have anticipated this argument by writing, "Previously, some or all of these assets may mistakenly have assumed to belong to Essential Energy or our predecessors";

  • it is not some small, easy-to-manage pole carrying a single-strand powerline, but a huge wooden pole which is identical to all the other poles of the distribution mains, secured by a finger-thick stay wire anchored deep into the ground, and carrying a thick and heavy multi-strand wire identical to the distribution mains;

  • instead of having my electricity supplied from the regular line of distribution outside my gate which also supplies my neighbours across the lane (marked GREEN on the above map), the thick and heavy multi-strand wire (most of which terminates and hangs unconnected from the now "private pole") connecting me to the network, runs from Essential Energy's last distribution mains pole (marked RED on the above map) more than 100 metres to the "private pole" (marked YELLOW on the above map);

  • the thickness and therefore heaviness of this multi-strand wire (which is unlike the thin wires connecting my neighbours) and the extreme length of some 100 metres instead of the perhaps 50 metres if connected to the regular line from outside my gate makes the now "private pole" prone to further accidents, and I suggested to Essential Energy that, at the very least, they should either add an extra pole to half the length of the transmission or, better still, connect me from the regular line outside my gate. Both suggestions have been rejected by Essential Energy in their last email dated 23 December 2021, "Unfortunately Essential Energy will not be looking to install any additional power poles to our infrastructure in relation to your request. The current configuration is to standard ..." What a lovely Christmas present!

Below is the sequence of emails between me and the no-longer-so-nice people at Essential Energy:

9 December 2021

Dear Mr McEntee,

Under normal circumstances, I ought to be grateful if someone suddenly stuck a new label onto something and in doing so conferred ownership of it onto me, even though I had never bought and paid for it. However, in the case of your sudden transfer of the power pole now marked with the label "PP40217", I am a little reluctant to accept this "gift" since it is not so much a transfer of ownership but a transfer of responsibility and, with it, all costs associated with it.

The power pole marked "PP40217" is far too large to be a private pole, and thus far too large to be maintained by a conventional contractor. Unfortunately, it has to be so large because you chose to run the overhead service from a very long distance across the whole breadth of my property.

If, instead, you had run your distribution main all the way to my front gate (as you have done with all my neighbours), an aerial consumer's mains of less than half that distance could have been run to a connection point on a much smaller "private" pole (in which case I would have placed it underground a long time ago as I did with my existing connection to the house).

Could you please call me at your convenience or, better still, call on me on my property in person, so that we can discuss this matter with all the facts before us?

Yours sincerely
Manfred Peter Goerman

16 December 2021

Good Afternoon Manfred

Thank you for taking the time to write to us outlining your concerns around private pole ownership and the configuration of the electrical assets on your property. We are unable to attend your property and have tried to contact you by phone and haven’t been able to reach you, so please allow me to address your concerns via email and to expand on our prior communication.

As an electricity distribution network operator, Essential Energy is responsible for maintaining and repairing the electricity network to the customer connection point located on private land. Landholders are responsible for network maintenance beyond this point (as, similarly, all owners of home and business premises are responsible for internal wiring maintenance).

Our determination of the connection point is based on the definition in the Service and Installation Rules of NSW – the industry standard for customer connection to the electricity distribution system (which reflects provisions under the Electricity Supply Act 1995 (NSW), the Electricity Supply (Safety and Network Management) Regulation 2014 (NSW) and AS/NZ 3000 Wiring Rules).

I have described the connection in the image below from the Service and Installation Rules which best describes the connection at your property. The distribution system does not include any conduit, pole or other structure supporting protecting or enclosing electricity lines where those assets are part of an Electrical Installation.

If you would like to review the NSW Legislation and the NSW Service & Installation Rules, you can search for this information online as they are publicly available.

Beyond the customer connection point, landholders are legally responsible for the electricity assets including power poles that connect their premises to the network – these are referred to as private electricity network assets or private assets.

Generally, private power poles and other network assets located beyond the connection point to the switchboard or meter were installed at the instigation of a landholder and have always been owned by them or by subsequent landholders. Unfortunately, confusion about ownership may have arisen when properties changed hands or were subdivided. In some cases, this has been compounded by Essential Energy undertaking maintenance or defect rectification work at its own expense to manage potential safety risks. To resolve any past confusion and clearly indicate ownership going forward, Essential Energy Asset Inspectors are progressively ensuring that all power poles on a customer’s property are appropriately labelled and recorded in Essential Energy’s Asset Management System.

Under the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER’s) Ring Fencing Guidelines applicable from January 2018, Essential Energy can no longer undertake this type of rectification work at no cost to the private network asset owner. Landholders are required to engage an appropriately qualified Accredited Service Provider and are responsible for associated costs.

A thorough review of Essential Energy’s asset management records confirms that under the definition of Private Electrical Assets, power pole PP40217 is and always has been, privately owned. This decision was not made at the time of the last inspection as it has always been the case.

I can confirm that the configuration and installation of pole PP40217 was done to the relevant standards of the time and that PP40217 also meets today’s current standards and can be maintained by an Accredited Service Provider.

To help private asset owners better understand their responsibilities, Essential Energy provides a range of information on our website (www.essentialenergy.com.au/privateassets), including FAQs, examples of privately-owned network asset configurations, common overhead power pole and powerline defects

Kind regards
Private Assets Team

17 December 2021

And good afternoon to you too, Brendon,

before I start reading through all that guff available on the https://www.energy.nsw.gov.au/government-and-regulation/legislative-and-regulatory-requirements/service-installation-rules website (at my age, life gets a bit short for that sort of stuff, and I would leave it to EWON to settle the matter :-), could you please answer one simple question: are you or are you not responsible for the maintenance/clearance of vegetation/etc. of all wiring up to the customer connection point which is about a 100 metres from the last "point of common coupling" and traverses almost the whole width of my acreage?

Kind regards
Manfred Peter Goerman

22 December 2021

Good morning Manfred

Thank you for writing to Brendon. My name is Josh Galloway and I oversee our Customer Liaison Team and am happy to assist with your enquiry.

Essential Energy inspect, cut and maintain vegetation around Private Low Voltage networks and also the overhead wiring connection that you have referred to in your below correspondence.

If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards, Josh
Josh Galloway
Customer Liaison Team Leader

22 December 2021

Thank you, Josh!

Now that this has been clarified, I would like to ask ESSENTIAL ENERGY to instal an additional power pole somewhere outside my boundaries (ideally outside my front gate to reduce the length of wire to a manageable 40-something metres) so as to take the extra load of that excessively 100-metre-long "overhead wiring connection" and not expose my now private pole to the extra risk and extra maintenance of being pulled over by that extra load.

With kind regards and Season's Greetings
Manfred Peter Goerman

23 December 2021

Thank you for your question Manfred.

Unfortunately Essential Energy will not be looking to install any additional power poles to our infrastructure in relation to your request. The current configuration is to standard and there is no network requirement to install additional poles. Respectfully, you may wish to install a pole to address your concerns regarding the span of the overhead service, this would be done by engaging a suitably qualified Accredited Service Provider at your cost. As a courtesy I have included a link to qualified contractors should you wish to pursue this- https://energy.nsw.gov.au/government-and-regulation/legislative-and-regulatory-requirements/asp-scheme-and-contestable-works#-more-information-.

(When you click on the above link, scroll through the information until you see a link called “View the list of ASP’s for each level”. Scroll through this page until you come to link called “List of Level 2 Accredited Service Providers” You will need to engage a Level 2 Accredited Service Provider (ASP)

I note your advice that you may seek to engage the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW, however if I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.


Josh Galloway
Customer Liaison Team Leader


Of course, I am lodging a complaint with the elegantly named Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW, if I can get them to fix their online complaint form which returns a server error "403 : Forbidden. Access is denied."

Did they see me coming?


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