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Power cuts in South Australia as state swelters

3rd Jan 2012

South Australia's power distributor was forced to cut electricity to some communities yesterday (January 2), after increasing temperatures made continued service a potential fire hazard.

Residents and holiday makers in Victor Harbour and surrounding areas were forced to endure heat of almost 40 degrees without access to electricity.

According to local publication AdelaideNow, 3,300 properties in the southern Fleurieu region were without power for six hours after it was disconnected at 10:30.

ETSA Utilities (Electricity Trust of South Australia) spokesman Paul Roberts defended the move, telling the ABC that the decision was taken very seriously.

"In the case for yesterday, we had a situation where the fire conditions were escalating, very strong winds and we had reports through the CFS (Country Fire Service) of trees down and that can cause a major problem in bringing down electrical infrastructure," he said yesterday (January 2).

"Clearly we recognise that people are affected and inconvenienced by not having power, but I guess the alternative is too serious to think about."

While Mr Roberts acknowledged the risks in not acting, the move highlighted the dangers that electricity infrastructure poses in the state.

South Australian emergency services minister Jennifer Rankine told the Australian that the government had failed to implement recommendations by the Victorian Bushfires Royal
Commission to place powerlines underground in high bushfire risk areas.

"The risks associated with electricity infrastructure in South Australia are quite different to Victoria, as we have mainly steel pole construction with steel cross arms, as distinct from the timber poles used in Victoria," she explained to the News Limited source last week.

According to Weatherzone's Brett Dutschke, lighter winds and higher humidity have reduced the fire danger in western and southern parts of South Australia today - however the risk is still high in northern region.

"A weak cooler southerly change moved through western and southern parts of South Australia and Victoria last night," he wrote today (January 3).

"This brought some relief from the hot, dry gusty winds, which led to 'severe' and 'extreme' fire danger yesterday."

ETSA Utilities has not ruled out further power cuts in the coming days.

Homeowners in South Australia looking to avoid disruptions to electricity supply from the grid system may benefit from installing a battery backed up solar panel system - which in the event of a power cut can run for many hours without a grid connection.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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