Ted Surette: Passionate about pruning (and power)

Vegetation management around power lines is a significant expense, costing up to $40m in NSW and even more in Queensland. In NSW trees cause 1 in 4 power outages. 


Today, I’m in my own suburb in Sydney to talk to you about tree pruning.  I know it sounds odd, but last week I came home from work and noticed that the trees had been trimmed under the electricity powerlines.

To be honest it’s not a pretty sight.  My local counsellor told me that she had received several complaints from dumbfounded residents on the severity of the pruning.

So I thought it would be interesting to look at this dilemma a bit closer as I spoke with people about it.

A few facts first

  1. Network distribution businesses are responsible for tree pruning. Not local councils. In NSW, the law enables the tree pruning to happen.
  2. Removing branches around powerlines and power poles helps prevents blackouts, bushfires, and accidental electrocution. Anybody who works in the energy sector, knows that community and employee safety is at the top of its list of priorities.
  3. In NSW trees cause 1 in 4 power outages
  4. Generally, tree trimming in residential areas is about 1 metre below low voltage powerlines.
  5. Vegetation management is a significant expense, up to $40m in NSW and even more in Queensland. Common practice is that specialist contractors do the pruning.
  6. Utilities are under pressure to do vegetation management cost effectively; the more they spend, the more these costs get passed on to customers.

So why is it that sometime residents get upset?

  1. Well in this case; in a matter of hours some residents loose shade, the character of the street is changed dramatically; trees became big stumps. It’s emotional. Some trees don’t look like trees anymore, so will they need to be cut down totally?

What can be done given that tree cutting is vital to energy supply, community safety?

  1. Councils and residents should consider the type trees they choose to plant. Don’t plant gums trees that will grow over power lines. Plant smaller ones. Customers also suggested avoiding planting trees near power lines.
  2. Ensure that guidelines are followed by three loppers. Quality control is important before and after the pruning is done.
  3. Leverage technology were possible to improve safety and reduce unnecessary pruning. Tools such as lasers and drones are increasingly used in these types of business scenarios; more so for long transmission network spans than residential. Insulated cables can also help in some situations, but these come at a cost.
  4. Continue community engagement in order to work with residents and councils to increase awareness and understanding of the aspects of tree pruning.

So that it’s today. I’m going home now as I have some of my own gardening and trimming to do.

Until the next time, this is Ted.


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