Power and Water Corporation leaves four customers who require life support machines without electricity

Power and Water Corporation leaves four customers who require life support machines without electricity
  • PublishedDecember 18, 2023

The non-fatal incident occurred on September 21 in Marrakai, 80 kilometres south-east of Darwin, with electricity being cut by Power and Water Corporation (PWC) for almost 90 minutes.

In its 2022-23 Compliance Monitoring Report, released on December 14, the NT Utilities Commission raised the matter despite it occurring in the 2023-24 financial year.

This was due to its “seriousness”.

The commission, which regulates the NT’s electricity industry, was not notified of the episode until two weeks after it occurred.

“The Commission considers any non-compliance with life support provisions … a serious matter, as the failure to comply with these obligations could have … detrimental and even fatal consequences,” the report said.

“The Commission has communicated to PWC that PWC’s response to this incident was below the Commission’s expectations, and reiterated the importance of life support equipment obligations and the seriousness of the material non-compliance.”

Marrakai Road sign
The incident occured in Marrakai, east of Darwin.(ABC Rural: Matt Brann)

Life support equipment, according to the NT electricity supply code, includes ventilators, oxygen concentrations and dialysis machines.

It also includes any other device a medical practitioner certifies is required by a customer to support life.

The incident occurred 19 months after a Jacana Energy customer relying on a machine was disconnected for three-and-a-half hours.

Non-compliance with life support equipment obligations “was a reoccurring theme” in the NT, the report said.

“Licensees should expect continued strong oversight by the Commission and potential escalation in the Commission’s response to such non-compliance, noting significant financial penalties would apply under regulatory frameworks in other jurisdictions,” it said.

A sign with peeling letters, that reads PowerWater no unauthorised personnel, on a fence in the desert
Power and Water Corporation is owned by the NT government.(ABC News: Isabella Higgins)

In a statement, PWC said the outage affected 275 customers altogether, including four registered life support customers.

“Customers were not advised in advance of the outage due to an error in our planned works notification process,” a spokesperson said.

“PWC became aware of the issue following a customer enquiry.”

The spokesperson said PWC had “been in contact with the life support customers affected by the outage and no adverse impacts have been reported”.

Breaches reported by all NT providers

All three NT electricity supply licensees reported breaches to the retail supply code relating to life support equipment in 2022-23.

PWC also had two “non-material breaches” relating to the registering and deregistering of life support customers.

NT government-owned Jacana Energy failed “to provide a medical confirmation form” to customers requiring life support equipment on two occasions, within the required time frame.

Meanwhile, private provider Rimfire self-reported a two-day delay in sending a medical confirmation form reminder notice.

“This was identified through an internal audit process and rectified,” the report said.

The Commission considered “Rimfire’s response to the breach appropriate”.


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