Page 1836 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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allows gas and electricity restrictions to be implemented in the territory in situations where the ACT is obliged, under national energy law or intergovernmental agreements, to reduce its total consumption to minimise system-wide impacts and damage. The ability of government to deal with such incidences is critical if we are to reduce potential damage to infrastructure and minimise the risk of random or prolonged interruptions of supply.

With the increasing interconnectivity of the energy supply and transmission systems across Australia, the security and reliability of essential services can no longer be considered an issue for individual states or territories. An incident occurring at one end of a network could cause direct or ripple effects at the other end. At the same time, the potential economic, social and infrastructure damage caused by supply emergency in one jurisdiction can now be minimised by assistance from other jurisdictions. States and territories are able to share the available supply equitably and appropriately.

This cooperative approach has already been adopted in the national electricity law to deal with emergency situations. It has been foreshadowed that the national gas emergency protocol, which is currently under development, will use the same approach. Under the proposed ACT framework, administrative and technical details for the restrictions are prescribed in regulations and schemes made under the Utilities Act 2000. The existing electricity, gas and water restrictions regulations and schemes will be incorporated under the same framework to ensure consistency in their administrative arrangements.

The development of this bill has been undertaken outside the existing work regarding the Utilities Act 2000 review. This is due to recognition of the lack of current legislation in a situation preceding a crisis and the urgency in ensuring that appropriate procedures are in place to manage a situation that may require this legislation. This framework will provide for the approval of schemes that impose a range of restrictions on consumption of utility supplies by commercial and residential users. The restrictions and measures will vary according to the severity of the shortage and the time frame in which reductions in use must be achieved.

Utility distribution service providers—namely, ActewAGL for gas and electricity and Actew for water—will have responsibility for implementing and enforcing the restriction measures when a declaration of shortage of supply is in force. Powers will be granted to an authorised person of the utility to enter and inspect premises, other than parts used for residential purposes, if the authorised person believes, on reasonable grounds, that an essential utility supply is being used in contravention of a restriction measure.

A list of exemptions to restrictions will be included to ensure that identified classes of essential users and at-risk community members, such as people on life-support machines, the elderly, and pregnant women experiencing complications, are protected from adverse impacts as far as possible. Provision will also be made for applications by other individuals for exemptions based on their particular circumstances. Critical government services and infrastructure, including the police, are authorised to obtain exemptions under these provisions.

The bill does not replace the provisions of the Emergencies Act 2004. Should a state of emergency be declared, the emergency controller’s directions will take precedence over any conflicting measures imposed under this bill. This legislation ensures the long-term

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