Jun 27, 2023
Western Power data reveals Midwest WA towns endured 60 hours of blackouts in 2022
Several Midwest shires are among the worst affected by power outages in Western Australia, figures reveal. The data was released last month as part of a Western Power plan to help customers track
Several Midwest shires are among the worst affected by power outages in Western Australia, figures reveal.
The data was released last month as part of a Western Power plan to help customers track network issues and improvements.
The online resource was developed in response to an independent review of the Christmas 2021 outages.
The report found greater transparency was needed regarding communities that consistently recorded below-standard power supply.
According to the figures, the shires of Northampton, Perenjori and Irwin each recorded an average of more than 60 hours of outages per customer in the last 12 months.
Northampton residents experienced the most outages, with an average of 21 interruptions recorded per customer this year.
That was up from nine interruptions in 2020/21.
By comparison, City of Greater Geraldton lost power for an average of 12 hours per customer this year.
Western Power spokesman Ben Bristow said the region's location made it challenging to supply reliable power.
"The characteristics of the electricity supply to the Midwest and Wheatbelt regions is really on long feeder lines that are subject to increasing climate change impacts such as extreme weather events, storms, high temperature and wind," he said.
"Ultimately that has a material impact on the reliability performance to those localities."
Last year Cyclone Seroja and extreme summer heatwaves left the Shire of Northampton without power for almost 400 hours.
Shire president Liz Sudlow said subsequent works to strengthen the network had been more effective in some areas of the community than others.
"I live north of Northampton and last summer definitely wasn't as bad as it had been the previous summer, but I know the area west of town, going out to Horrocks and up to Port Gregory, really suffered quite badly," she said.
"I think one of the key things for for many people is the continual outages — also the length of time that you're off the power."
Ms Sudlow welcomed Western Power's improved transparency, but said more could be done to implement other recommendations of the Christmas outage review.
"I think the key thing for me really was the recommendation … for Western Power to work with key stakeholders to make sure that their fire risk management system recognised the balance between the safety impacts of not having the power and the actual fire risk," she said.
"We want [Western Power staff] to be safe, but we have a lot of elderly people that live in our community and their health can be can be really impacted by extended outages of power."
Western Power executive manager of asset operations Zane Christmas said more than $16 million was being spent on bushfire mitigation in the Midwest.
"We've increased insulator replacements and network maintenance to improve power reliability where we can and mitigate pole-top fire risk in the region," he said.
"Additionally, we're continuing fire modelling research to improve our ability to predict periods of risk where weather may affect the network."
Other works scheduled for Northampton, Horrocks and Gregory over the next 12 months include the replacement of several wooden poles and fuses that protect the network and equipment from surges or overloads.
Additional enhancements to enable the Kalbarri microgrid to support the town for longer periods are also under development.
ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt will deliver a wrap of the week's news, stories and photos every Thursday. Sign up here