Peel community bands together to fight for reparations after Christmas weekend blackout

POWER OUT: The Peel community has banded together to demand reparations for the Christmas weekend power outage of 2021. Photo: Gift Habeshaw via Unsplash.

POWER OUT: The Peel community has banded together to demand reparations for the Christmas weekend power outage of 2021. Photo: Gift Habeshaw via Unsplash.

Over the 2021 Christmas weekend heatwave, a number of suburbs in the Peel region experienced power outages, leaving them with bins full of Christmas food and no way to escape the weather.

People living in the impacted suburbs which included Dawesville, Herron, Bouvard, Wannanup, Erskine and surrounds took to community Facebook pages to share their experiences.

"Lost two fridges and three freezer loads of food due to power outage," one Dawesville woman wrote.

Another wrote that her 12 person household had to endure "sweltering heat" and lost three fridges and a freezer worth of food.

With no way to charge appliances and hours worth of power outages spreading over a number of days, residents began making calls to their local MP.

Dawesville MP Lisa Munday received a number of calls and emails from concerned residents, wondering when and how the problem would be fixed.

"I'd like to thank Dawesville residents who were impacted by power outages for their patience and understanding as Western Power worked to resolve the situation," Ms Munday said.

SOLUTIONS: Dawesville MP Lisa Munday says she has been in contact with the Minister for Energy and Western Power to discuss long-term solutions. Photo: Supplied.

SOLUTIONS: Dawesville MP Lisa Munday says she has been in contact with the Minister for Energy and Western Power to discuss long-term solutions. Photo: Supplied.

Once the issue was called to her attention, Ms Munday made contact with both Western Power and the Minister for Energy to get to the bottom of what was causing the mass outages.

"The outages were caused by the extreme heat impacting the grid, with the high fire risk then delaying crews' ability to carry out the necessary repair work," she said.

"I was in close contact with Western Power and the Minister for Energy's office during this period and it was pleasing we were able to secure two power generators to help address the situation."

With generators in place and a number of residents making claims for reparations for fridges and freezers gone to waste, Ms Munday said Minister for Energy Bill Johnston requested a review into the outages.

"The Energy Minister...has asked the independent body responsible for allocating Western Power's maintenance budget to review the situation in light of these outages," Ms Munday said.

Customers are generally not eligible for any further damages payments for weather-related events and impacts such as safety devices tripping during an extended run of heat as these are outside Western Power's control.

Western Power

Ms Munday said the state government and Western Power had doubled the Extended Outage Payment from $80 to $160 for those who lost power for more than 12 continuous hours.

She added that her office would be escalating reports of extended phone outages in the Dawesville area to Telstra and the federal government.

While the power outages eventually resolved and residents began having their payment requests approved, there were still a number of unhappy residents who received messages saying Western Power would not be approving their claims due to being "unable to find any evidence of negligence on the part of Western Power".

A Western Power representative said the company acknowledged the frustration and inconvenience of the power interruptions which they said were caused by stress on equipment during the "unprecedented heatwave" combined with high demand.

"Western Power appreciates the patience of affected customers while we worked in extreme conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible," the representative said.

"The network experienced very high electricity demand over the festive four-day long weekend.

"Even though the network is designed to cope with high demand, ongoing extreme heatwave conditions puts additional stress on network equipment, which can in some instances cause outages."

WASTED: Peel residents say they had to throw away fridges and freezes full of Christmas food. Photo: Maria Lin Kim via Unsplash.

WASTED: Peel residents say they had to throw away fridges and freezes full of Christmas food. Photo: Maria Lin Kim via Unsplash.

The representative said that during heatwaves the lines are typically unable to be re-energised until fire danger reaches a low enough level to mitigate bushfire risk.

"The reliability issues experienced over the festive period, including Dawesville and surrounding areas, will be reviewed with the information used to inform future asset management and operational practices."

As for the claims being rejected, the representative said weather-related events were outside of Western Power's control.

"Customers are generally not eligible for any further damages payments for weather-related events and impacts such as safety devices tripping during an extended run of heat as these are outside Western Power's control.

"Customers can check with their insurer in these instances to see what may or may not be covered by any policies."

The Mail will continue to cover the events relating to the Peel power outages.

Do you have a power outage story to tell? Email editor@mandurahmail.com.au