Another high-flying executive from Energy Safe Victoria has taken wing and joined electricity giant Powercor, raising more questions about process and governance.
All four main devastating bushfires in the south-west on St Patrick's Day 2018 were started by powerline infrastructure, leading to questions about maintenance practices and the potential introduction of new technology to boost community safety.
There is a particular focus on finding better methods of gathering objective data and establishing the serviceability and health of power poles.
More questions were raised about Powercor's maintenance after a wooden pole snapped during storms last Thursday, sparking an electricity light show.
A Powercor spokesman said crews responded quickly to the broken pole near Pomborneit and it has been replaced and power restored.
"A thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding this incident is now underway," he said.
In September, world leading technology provider for wooden power pole maintenance Thor Poletest suspended involvement in a Victorian new-tech trial due to unanswered questions about the optics of another executive member leaving the authority to join Powercor.
David Matassoni, who previously worked for Energy Safe Victoria and wrote the report on power pole management, on which ESV now relies.
The Standard understands that shortly after delivering this report Mr Matassoni left ESV and joined Powercor where he is now responsible for compliance with his own report.
Further investigations have established that Mr Matassoni also directs a trial run by the Victorian Electricity Supply Industry, representing the state's five main power companies, that was rubber stamped by ESV.
Thor Poletest's general manager Mark Thompson said the current non-destructive technology trial was being undertaken by VESI in order to demonstrate compliance with energy safety regulations.
This week Thor Poletest officially ended its involvement in the trial, informing both ESV and Powercor.
That was after ESV executive Brett Fox, who is understood to have signed off on the VESI project, joined Powercor, where he is expected to continue his involvement in the trial.
Powercor has previously been contacted and declined to comment, but has been given another opportunity to talk this morning.
But, an ESV spokesman said on Wednesday that technical specialists in the electrical industry did move between major electrical companies and the regulator.
"ESV has clear protocols in place to manage conflicts of interest (perceived or real) when staff transfer either way," he said.
"ESV has no decision making role in the VESI project, it is an observer.
"ESV's interest is that the chosen technology delivers the right safety outcomes, the choice of technology is for the businesses," he said.
Industry insiders say it's incredible that ESV is sticking to its position that the authority is only an observer of a project that was presented as a method of compliance with the regulator.
"If a VESI project that had a plan to use witchcraft and rubber bands to demonstrate compliance with improving safety it seems that ESV would also accept it with no questions asked," he said.
"Before they 'observe' a project surely they must accept it.
"Just what are the acceptance criteria that ESV applies when accepting a project proposed to it by an MEC (major electricity company)?
"On what grounds would ESV not accept, if any, a compliance orientated project for them to then observe?" he asked.
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