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New energy powers for industry to safeguard consumers

11 December, 2007

Laws providing better security of Western Australia’s energy supplies and stricter enforcement of safety standards have been passed by State Parliament.

The new laws allow EnergySafety, the Government’s energy regulator, to demand emergency management plans from gas companies, EnergySafety Executive Director Albert Koenig has said.

“They also substantially increase - to $250,000 - the maximum penalties for breaches of safety standards by electricity and gas industry companies, including Western Power,” Koenig said.

“The Longford gas disaster in Victoria in 1998 demonstrated the need for strong regulatory oversight of energy production, transmission and distribution systems,” he said.

“The continuing increase in competition occurring in the gas and electricity markets meant stronger safety and emergency powers needed to be available to the Director of EnergySafety.

"The separation of Western Power’s network business actually improved the ability of that business to comply with safety and performance standards. Nonetheless, stronger enforcement powers are needed for the regulator to deal with today’s corporations.”

Koenig said the existence of emergency management plans would ensure there was a co-ordinated response in the event of damage or upstream loss of gas supply.

"Electricity and gas inspectors will also have increased enforcement powers in dealing with network-wide problems and potentially dangerous work practices such as excavation near gas pipelines.

“A competitive industry environment delivers benefits to consumers, but also requires a legislative framework to protect workers and the public from energy hazards.

“When the State Coroner brought down his recommendations after the Tenterden Inquest a few years ago, he also recommended urgent action to give EnergySafety the powers it needed to require remedial action on large energy networks.

“These new laws provide such powers to the regulator.

"Western Australians have a right to expect stringent standards of safety, reliability, quality and metering accuracy in their energy supplies and this legislation puts in place proper protections," Koenig said.

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