Resilient Gembrook

Gembrook Community Centre Committee president John Cascone, Cr Tammy Radford, Daniela De Martino MP, Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio, and Cr Jeff Springfield, at the Gembrook Community Centre. Picture: SUPPLIED

The State Government has introduced an electricity resilience and safety initiative in the Dandenong Ranges in an attempt to protect Victorians against power outages caused by extreme weather events.

Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Gembrook Energy Resilience System on Monday 6 November – part of a $7.5 million Victorian Government program that is a direct response to a key recommendation of the Electricity Distribution Network Resilience Review.

President of the Gembrook Community Centre committee of management, John Cascone, said the project would provide solar and battery backup in case of power outages – particularly prolonged outages – with a generator kicking in when needed.

“There is a significant amount of need because in the recent times when there’s been an outage, there were families two to three weeks without power, they were pretty affected,” Mr Cascone said.

“This car park is designated as a place of last resort, in case of fire danger.

“People are told to leave prior to that, but there’s a lot of people that won’t be able to leave prior to that, and they may get caught up in the situation, so at least they’ll have a place to go.”

The review was commissioned by the Minister for Energy in response to two storms events in 2021, with an expert panel appointed to provide recommendations as to how the resilience of the network and the response to prolonged outages could be improved.

The government supports the recommendations, which include:

Boosting network and community resilience.

Creating obligations for electricity distribution businesses to publish resilience plans.

Requesting a change to the National Electricity Rules to embed resilience in network planning.

Introducing new emergency management obligations.

The Energy Resilience Systems program will fund solar panels, batteries and backup generators at 23 community buildings located in areas at high-risk of storm or bushfire-related power outages. The community buildings will act as hubs for the local community, providing a space to cook meals, charge devices and find information.

Work is already underway at 19 sites with most expected to be complete ahead of the summer bushfire season.

Mr Cascone is feeling positive about having the system installed.

“I’m excited; it’ll be some benefit,” he said.

“We’re hoping that we don’t get to use it, but it’s there in case it’s needed.”

Minister for Energy and Resources Lily D’Ambrosio said the government supports the review recommendations and has “started the work to deliver them”, ensuring the energy network is “better equipped to handle extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent due to climate change”.

“We’re improving the resilience of electricity infrastructure to provide communities with access to a secure power supply during emergency situations,” she said.

Monbulk MP Daniela De Martino said it is known how important having access to power for simple necessities like hot showers and phone charging can be during an emergency situation.

“This new energy resilience system will ensure the Gembrook community have somewhere safe they can go to during severe storms,” she said.