Surge creates a power of damage

A power surge thought to be caused by “unexpected equipment failure” on an SA Power Networks line in the early hours of last Tuesday morning has caused significant damage to whitegoods and household equipment, affecting up to 36 homes in Clare.

The incident has prompted a local couple to urge others to consider installing a surge protector in their homes to prevent similar damage.

Trevor and Jillian Wood of Agnes Street estimated they had $5000 worth of damage to electrical equipment in their home, including a convection microwave, fridge/freezer and all food contents, air conditioner, gas heater, pressure pump and two battery chargers.

“Pretty much anything that was connected into the mains and had the power point turned on was impacted,” Trevor said.

Aside from the inconvenience of being without the equipment until it can be replaced or in some cases repaired, the Woods were shocked to discover their insurance would not cover the damage and SAPN would only foot some of the bill.

“We contacted SA Power Networks and were told we would have to get quotes and claim against our home and contents insurance,” Jillian said.

“We contacted our insurance provider and found we did not have insurance as there was an exemption for surge events – they told us there was no insurance company in Australia that would protect you for power surges.

“SA Power Network stated they will cover some of the costs but every claim will be adjusted for the age of the equipment.

“How is this possible, where is their ethical behaviour? Why should any of us bear the cost of their poor maintenance regime.

“Many of the people who have been caught up in this are seniors and pensioners who can ill afford this totally avoidable debacle.”

SA Power Networks (SAPN) corporate affairs manager Paul Roberts refuted the claim that the surge occurred due to poor maintenance, saying “the equipment had been inspected within our maintenance cycle and, given this is an unexpected failure and there is no evidence of negligence or that we have acted in bad faith”.

Mr Roberts said an investigation into the incident was being finalised, however a “technical assessment on the information presently available, is that this was caused by an unexpected equipment failure – specifically of a connection clamp”.

He said 36 customers were affected by the power outage due to this fault and “experience suggests about a third will have had some appliance damage”.

On Monday, Mr Roberts said three claim enquiries had been received following the incident and SAPN was acting within Australian regulations in regard to compensation.

“As a courtesy, when our crews were on site they provided some customers with claim forms,” he said.

“This is not an admission of fault nor does it constitute a promise of compensation. We will assist customers with supporting evidence in making claims with their insurers – and are disappointed to hear some insurers are rejecting claims.

“Our obligation to compensate customers for damage to property is limited (by the Australian Energy Regulator) to situations where there is negligence or we have acted in bad faith.

“Consistent with Australian law, where we accept claims, we cover at a depreciated rate that reasonably reflects the age or value of equipment being replaced. Insurers may do something different, depending on the contract they have in place with their customer.”

Trevor and Jillian Wood said it had been a stressful time and urged other homeowners to consider installing a surge protector, which they would now be considering for their own house.

“We’re upset and annoyed that through our own ignorance, we could have avoided this if we’d known having a surge protector at around $800 plus installation, could have prevented this damage,” Jillian said.

“I’ve been through my whole life and never had this happen before – power outages yes, but not this kind of damage – so I’d say to others to look into a surge protector too if they are in a position to do so.

“One thing though, during this event, the service industry in Clare did a good job. Electricians, Clewers, plumbers, everybody rallied around, which we’re very grateful for.”