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Dark times ahead

Monday, 20th July, 2015

Essential Energy has conceded its planned job cuts may result in residents and businesses waiting longer to have their power restored after blackouts. Essential Energy has conceded its planned job cuts may result in residents and businesses waiting longer to have their power restored after blackouts.

By Andrew Robertson

Essential Energy has conceded its planned job cuts may result in residents and businesses waiting longer to have their power restored after blackouts.

The CFMEU last week warned the utility’s plan to axe up to 1400 jobs from across the network to reduce operating costs could lead to longer power outages in the region.

The union said vast travel distances involved in maintaining the region’s network should be taken into account by Essential Energy when determining the location of the job losses.

Essential Energy, which is set to let go 700 workers by the end of the year, has said the job cuts would be relatively proportionate across its network.

It said a reduction in its operating budget would result in significantly less funding for vegetation management and other important programs over the next four years.

“Fewer employees may also mean longer response times to restore power supply to local communities after major storm events,” a spokesman said.

Local McDonald’s restaurant owner Mark Craven was disappointed to hear his 24-hour eatery could be forced to wait longer to have power restored in the event of a blackout.

He said blackouts were not only an inconvenience to customers but also casual staff, who could lose out on a full shift depending on the length of the outage.

“I’ve had one blackout last for eight hours,” he said. “Longer outages aren’t good for customers or staff.”

Essential Energy said a full review of its business operations was underway to identify “further improvement opportunities” while it progressively aligns capital and operating budgets to the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER’s) determination.”

The AER in May ordered the state’s three power distributors to slash their operating budgets.

“This includes exploring alternative service delivery models across the business,” the spokesman said.

“For example, Essential Energy’s meter reading services will move from in-house delivery to an outsourcing model from September 2015, delivering significant savings to the business without compromising safety, performance or quality.

“Several cost containment measures have also been implemented since 1 July 2015 to reduce Essential Energy’s spending.

“These include a recruitment freeze, reduction in planned overtime, freeze on vehicle purchases and discretionary property expenditure, and removal of all non-essential office mobile phones.”

As part of a reform process initiated in 2012, Essential Energy has delivered two consecutive years of annual network distribution price decreases and is expected to contribute $1.7 billion in savings to June 2016, according to the spokesman.

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