SPAusNet – BT

SP AusNet faces class-action lawsuit

Groups in Victoria state claim its power lines caused bushfires

SP AusNet, a subsidiary of Singapore Power, is facing a class-action lawsuit relating to the bushfires that have ravaged south-eastern Australia.

The Australian electricity and gas distributor said yesterday that a writ had been filed in the Supreme Court of the state of Victoria from groups claiming that faulty power lines had caused loss and damage. This confirmed earlier Australian media reports of the law suit.

A company spokeswoman said ‘the claim is premature and inappropriate, given the establishment of the Royal Commission’ and that SP AusNet will vigorously defend the claim.

‘Our bushfire mitigation and vegetation management programmes comply with Electricity Safety (Bushfire Mitigation) Regulations and are audited annually by Energy Safe Victoria,’ the spokeswoman said yesterday.

SP AusNet, which is 51 per cent owned by Singapore Power and listed on the Australian and Singapore bourses, services more than one million customers in south-eastern Australia. It owns Victoria’s primary electricity transmission network, an electricity distribution network in eastern Victoria and a gas distribution network located in central and western Victoria.

Some 1,500 properties had power restored by SP AusNet crews over the weekend, including more than 200 in parts of King- lake, Kinglake West, Castella, Glenburn and Marysville.

SP AusNet and mutual aid crews have restored power to more than 11,200 homes since last Saturday’s firestorm ripped through the state.

‘The areas still to be restored include those hardest hit by the fires in King- lake, Marysville, Narbethong and Flowerdale areas. There are still about 2,800 connections to be made in these areas, where possible,’ SP AusNet said.

Yesterday, the company also stressed that it has insurance policies in place consistent with industry standards.

Listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in December 2005, SP AusNet had said in its IPO prospectus that it carried various types of insurance, including property damage and combined liability (including bushfire liability, product liability, personal injury, automobile liability and professional indemnity).

But it had also mentioned that while it maintained insurance that it believed was consistent with industry standards to protect against operating and other risks, not all risks were insured or insurable. SP AusNet self-insures its towers, poles and wires and associated equipment.

Extensive bushfires in 2003, which destroyed 185 electricity poles and disrupted service to numerous customers, cost SP AusNet some A$1.3 million (S$1.3 million) in repair costs.

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