Town flinches when the lights flicker
ADRIAN Zarb is fed up, and he's not alone.
Chronic power outages have cost the Mt Ossa Rural store owner about $6000 after his five-month-old fridge and two computers "blew up" in one of 27 power outages that hit the Kuttabul region in December.
While rural communities are often used to outages, Mr Zarb said the past six years had been a disaster but last month the community had reached the end of its tether.
"You expect things to get better, not worse," Mr Zarb said.
Angry residents met with Ergon Energy on New Year's Eve demanding answers, action and compensation for what they say is tens of thousands of dollars worth of losses.
For Geeberga-Buthurra Rd resident David Turner, the outages could have cost him more than his fridge.
Due to his health condition, Mr Turner relies on an airpump to supply him with oxygen through the night.
"I've got a dicky heart," he said.
"When (the power) flicks off, it switches your airpump off. You're breathing the same air in and out.
"Your heart rate goes all the way up. I wake up gasping (for air)."
The repeated outages have taken a toll on the small rural community.
Kuttabul resident Penny Grov said she flinched every time the lights flickered.
Ms Grov, who lives on Royston Park Dr, said: "I'm scared every time the power flicks. 'Oh here we go again - dinner in the dark'."
While most outages lasted for less than a minute, an Ergon Energy spokesman said 413 homes and businesses spent Christmas night in the dark after the lights cut for an hour and 47 minutes just before 9.45pm.
After 21 years in the area, Ms Grov said the outages problem had spiralled out of control in the past six years "and the last few months were a disaster".
"I go through microwaves like they're going out of style," Ms Grov said. "They don't last more than four months."
At the Ergon Energy community consultation outside Mt Ossa Rural, more than half of the 30 residents who attended said they had lost appliances due to the outages.
The Ergon spokesman said the outages were likely to have been caused by damage to a piece of equipment - smaller than a 50 cent piece - somewhere in the 144km of wires in the Mt Ossa and Kuttabul region.
He said extensive ground and helicopter patrols had been conducted along the network - and initial investigations had identified a suspected damaged lightning arrester.
"Despite the suspected damaged lightning arrester discovery, a thorough examination of the network is continuing in the event there are other contributing factors behind the recent outages," the spokesman said.
Over the next 12 months Ergon Energy planned to spend more than $2 million on network upgrades to address the supply issues, he said.
But many residents still said they felt abandoned by their electricity provider.
With almost daily outages in December, Kuttabul resident Chris Perna said he was frustrated that the problem had not been flagged in Ergon's system.
"It's absolutely hopeless," he said. "Until we started to whinge and complain nothing was going to be done."
Kuttabul resident Shane Moloney said he was tired of waiting for Ergon to fix the problem and had bought his own $20,000 generator. He blamed poor communication and slow response on the network's privatisation.