Search

Active search icon

Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter Program (REFCL)

Program overview

How do REFCLs work? Watch our short video to learn more.

 

What we’re doing

We’re installing leading-edge technology across the electricity network to reduce the risk of powerline-related bushfires. The technology, known as Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL), is being installed in selected hazardous bushfire risk areas.

The Victorian Government mandated the REFCL initiative as part of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Program to improve safety across Victoria’s power network. Other work aimed at reducing the number of fires started by electricity assets includes:


  • Undergrounding, or covering of, powerlines in very high-fire risk areas,
  • More frequent inspections and maintenance of powerlines,
  • Increased vegetation management and clearing programs.

What is a REFCL?

A REFCL is a type of protection device that operates like a big safety switch in the electricity network. It was originally developed for its reliability benefits in Europe. In Victoria, however, it's being used to help reduce the risk of bushfires. Trials of the technology took place in 2014 and 2015 and REFCLs have been operating in some locations since 2017.

Where we’re doing it

We're installing REFCLs in 22 locations in outer Melbourne and across northern and eastern Victoria. REFCLs are already installed in 14 locations and are available to protect surrounding communities. It’s expected that all 22 locations will be completed by mid-2023.

The map below shows where we're installing REFCLs. 

Image of REFCL works in your area

For more information about REFCL works in your area, view - REFCL Lookup. Once operational, REFCLs will operate at their highest settings on Total Fire Ban and Code Red days during summer.

 

What does it mean for the community?

This new technology is designed to reduce bushfire risk across the network. We may need to temporarily cut power to safely install and test the technology, at certain locations. We'll notify customers in advance of any planned outages. You can keep up to date through our Outage Tracker, and via SMS if we have your mobile number.

Once the technology is installed, the devices will undergo testing. During this phase, there is a small possibility of unplanned power interruptions. When REFCLs are operating, customers might experience more outages on Total Fire Ban days or Code Red days. On these days, the technology will shut down sections of the network where an earth fault is detected to reduce the risk of the fault causing a fire. Crews will be on standby to fix faults as quickly as possible.
 

How does a REFCL work?

As the name suggests, the Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) limits the amount of energy released when an earth fault occurs on a powerline. An earth fault occurs when a connection is made between a powerline and the ground. This could happen due to a fallen powerline, a tree falling against a powerline, or wildlife touching the pole and powerline at the same time. When a fault occurs, a REFCL detects and significantly limits the energy flow within a tenth of a second. This reduces the possibility of a fire being started, or of a nearby person or animal receiving an electric shock.

Customers will not be affected if the fault can fix itself quickly (e.g. a tree branch touched the power line then fell away). Without a REFCL, these faults can cut power for several minutes, lead to fires, or even property damage. If the fault remains (e.g. a tree falls on a line, or a car hits a power pole) then all power will be cut around the fault area.

 

Image of Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter Program process

 

If you have any other questions about this program, please contact us on 1300 360 795 or customersupport@ausnetservices.com.au

Impacts of REFCLs for High Voltage (HV) customers

The REFCL operates on the 22 kV electricity distribution network, which supplies electricity to High Voltage (HV) customers. If HV customers do not make changes to protect their electrical assets before REFCLs become operational,  their HV electrical assets may fail.

A revision was made to the Electricity Distribution Code in 2018 by the Essential Service Commission which requires HV customers to undertake works, at their own expense, to withstand REFCL operations. For more information, download our HV Customer Solutions factsheet (PDF, 520 KB) and HV Customer Policy for REFCL Protected Networks (PDF, 307 KB).

If you have any questions about HV customer-related matters, please email us at: HVcustomers@ausnetservices.com.au.