Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio has been called on to reassure the Apollo Bay community it will have a reliable power supply this tourist season after Powercor was forced to disconnect the State Government's $1 billion roll out of bushfire safety system because it is causing too many power outages.
The new Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter technology has been deemed by Powercor to not be compatible with current power supply technology at the seaside tourist hotspot.
The technology was to be rolled out across the state in a $151 million project aimed at reducing the risk of bushfires, but the project has blown out to an expected $1 billion.
State Minister for Energy Lily D'Ambrosio has claimed the REFCL system will stop 70 per cent of fires, but she's come under fire from experts who strongly dispute her claims.
The installation of the system is expected to cost each south-west customer more than $400.
With the busy summer season fast approaching, Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan has sent a letter to Ms D'Ambrosio demanding to know what the Victorian Government plans to do to keep the power on in Apollo Bay, and the Otways safe from fire.
"Through increased charges on power bills, Minister D'Ambrosio has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the controversial REFCL technology," Mr Riordan said.
"Despite warnings now for years, Powercor has had to turn off this hugely expensive technology, to keep doors open in Apollo Bay.
"Minister D'Ambrosio and Premier Daniel Andrews have to come clean on this pet project is looking more and more like a white elephant.
"I am calling on Minister D'Ambrosio to come to Apollo Bay and personally guarantee local business and the community that they will not be facing economic hardships this summer due to intermittent power supply."
Mr Riordan said Apollo Bay has had at least five power outages during the past two months.
"These have occurred during peak trading times and are having a huge impact on retailers with a loss in revenue, spoiling food and creating problems with electrical equipment," he said.
"Minister Lily D'Ambrosio needs to explain to Apollo Bay residents and business owners what provisions are in place for the upcoming bushfire season.
"The community deserves answers and assurances that the local economy will not be threatened by the Minister's reckless pursuit of REFCLs," Mr Riordan said.
A spokeswoman for Ms D'Ambrosio said the minister was aware of the situation.
"We understand Powercor is having compatibility issues between REFCL's and their Auto Switchover Scheme in Apollo Bay," she said.
"The problem is not with the REFCLs themselves, but is occurring due to a fault with the Apollo Bay network. Other sites have the same configuration and have not run into these issues.
"Powercor has advised they have temporarily disabled REFCLs in the area while they fix the network fault and will be working closely with emergency services to ensure both reliability and community safety throughout this time.
"The REFCLs are anticipated to be back online before the bushfire season starts and we'll be monitoring the situation closely to ensure this occurs."
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