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Today's quote:

Monday, March 28, 2022

Non-essential energy


Our "electricity distribution network operator", ESSENTIAL ENERGY, last year decided that one of their power poles on our property would henceforth be ours. Beware of a "electricity distribution network operator" bearing gifts!

So I wrote, "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?"

Of course, I shouldn't have even bothered because their reply, within days, was - blah, blah, blah, blah and blah - totally predictable:

"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 "

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah.

I had one shot left in the locker, the ombudsman! No, not the one in Sweden from where they borrowed the name, but the one in Sydney who is paid by the same paymaster as the state-owned Essential Energy.

Their reply was another blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah; and with already one more branch having broken off, which could just as easily have fallen across the powerline (again!), I sent off one last email:

A similarly heavy and healthy gum tree that just dropped, luckily NOT above the powerline


"This matter had been bounced back to you by the Ombudsman, after which someone called Jason phoned, pretending to do a 'search' of documents with the foregone conclusion that it was always going to end up as 'my' Private Pole. However, he did confirm that you are responsible for keeping the powerline clear of vegetation. When I suggested that this wasn't being done properly, the same person defended it by saying that you would not cut back 'healthy' trees despite the fact that gum trees don't wait to become 'unhealthy' before dropping their branches.

This is exactly what happened about a week ago, when a branch came down onto the powerline and hung there, and I had to call your emergency line to get two cars out to clear it from the powerline. When I pointed out the other branches dangerously overhanging the powerline, I was again told that this would have to wait until the next time your crew came through Sproxton Lane. Why wait until an accident happens? However, if this is your modus operandi, at least conform to me now that if a falling branch pulls down the powerline again due to your inaction and with it 'my' private pole, you will be responsible for both reconnecting the powerline AND straightening 'my' private pole."

I promptly received a computer-generated response telling me that "Your request has been registered and we will be in further contact with you in the near future."

Two heavy branches poised above the powerline which are likely to break off at any time


That "near future" is becoming a distant future as I've been waiting for almost two months now for a reply. In a last-ditch effort I sent them the "Yes, Minister" clip and inquired if "the matter is under consideration" or if "the matter is under active consideration". I'm not holding my breath!

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