For businesses and homes that rely on electricity, not having power can be an inconvenience and, in some cases, detrimental to businesses. If Daylesford's power goes out, time starts ticking for Daylesford Bakery owner Ben Terletzky. He has about half-an-hour where he can stay open. After that he cannot regulate hot or cold food and even services, like the hot water, stop working. "Even though it's gas, it's one of the continual hot water services so it needs electricity to ignite the gas when it's in use," Mr Terletzky said. "It can be a pain if you can't wash dishes or anything." As a bakery owner often they are impacted because power is out overnight when they are trying to bake bread for the morning rush. "Usually we will then work with a torch light and you sort of have to roughly remember how long it's been in [the oven] and keep the door shut, so it just continues baking," Mr Terletzky said. "Provided that it comes on within 30 minutes you are usually right to continue." Mr Terletzky said it could be frustrating, as a paying customer, for the power to be fickle. "It cuts out a lot of what we can sell, we can't make coffee and we can't slice bread because we need electricity for the bread slicers." Even if you do not run a business, a simple thing like getting your car out of the garage can become a bit more complicated. Ballarat Powercor field leader Andrew Woods told The Courier regional areas suffered more from power outages than inner-city suburbs. He said if there were faults in the network more customers were impacted if it was in a regional area. "They might have two trees in a street that could knock a power line over, or a possum can blow a fuse," Mr Woods said. "Where we've got hundreds and hundreds of trees and hundreds of possums." There are plenty of small parts along the lines that need to be maintained. Before electricity can make it into your home or business, it needs to be generated in places like coal plans, hydroelectric power or wind farms. Transmission lines are then used to move the power from the generation location to the place it is needed. These transmission lines use high voltages, ranging from 132 to 500 kilovolts. The higher the voltage, the less amount of electricity is lost in the transport process which makes it more cost-effective for the electricity companies. But these voltages are too large to power directly into houses, so Zoned Substations are used to change the voltages. Ballarat has two stations - Norman Street is the home to the north station, where 12 feeder lines start. These lines are spread across the region and two of them are responsible for power into Daylesford. The two lines that power Daylesford are run out of the Ballarat station, while other towns like Trentham and Blackwood that are also affected are run out of zone substations in Kyneton. Powercor is in charge of the infrastructure that gets power from the substation into your home or business for the western side of the state. Most of the network is run via overhead power lines, while a quarter is underground. Most of the underground lines are in new estates or developments. If the power does go off, Mr Woods said there were a number of sections that could have caused the fault. "It could be an internal problem - either a fuse from the switchboard inside the home or something wrong externally on the Powercor network," he said. "We may have a burnt-out wire, a tree on a wire, a bad connection or a fault somewhere else." A key change to transmission line technology came out of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires royal commission. This found electrical faults caused five of the 11 major fires which saw 173 deaths - 159 of them in fires caused by electricity faults. Following the recommendations, a number of technologies were changed to help mitigate fire risk. This includes Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter or REFCL, which acts as an automatic circuit breaker and immediately turns off the feeder line if a fault is detected. This can happen in a matter of milliseconds. On days of higher bushfire risk, the REFCL can be set to a more sensitive setting. A consequence of the new technology is the need to constantly balance reliability and safety. If the REFCL is triggered, power from Ballarat's northern suburbs all the way into Daylesford can be down until the fault is rectified. This balance played out during the winter of 2021, when some customers in Daylesford were without power for up to six days after horrific storms tore through the state. After four decades in the industry, the storms in Daylesford were unlike anything Mr Woods has ever experienced. He described them as the team's Armageddon, something he had "never, ever, ever, ever" seen before. Extreme wind warnings had been issued, but Mr Woods said they were not expecting it to be as intense as it was. He said the workers on call started the normal process of attending to faults in the early hours of the morning. "Pretty soon it became evident that there was a bit more damage than normal." Communication systems were down, but by the time daylight broke and workers had been able to make contact, Mr Woods said the situation became clearer. "By 10am you pretty much knew that this was just a once-off thing that had never happened before," he said. "The further we went out, the more damage we found and pretty much by midday, we knew that we had some challenges ahead of us ourselves." There are regulations about how far away trees have to be from power lines, to help mitigate damage and bushfire risk. Mr Woods said even if there was another 10-metre gap between trees and power lines, it would not have made much difference. He said the combination of heavy rain and wind made the situation worse. "They get heavier, because the branches are wet, then you have the wind adding more pressure," Mr Woods said. "Their feet are wet so the wind just pushes them over. "It was just mayhem." Areas around Barkstead, about 30 minutes from Ballarat, had some of the most damage to lines. "Pretty much this was our death zone unfortunately," Mr Woods said. "It was not even just the trees coming over, it was trees hitting them, and then [the trees] coming [down]." Mr Woods said the impact of a 10-ton tree coming down on the line could create a whip effect and damage large sections of power infrastructure. Rather than fixing faults, the Powercor team had to rebuild large parts of their network. Because of the REFCLs, large sections of power were out while the situation was rectified. Australia is one of the few countries that use REFCLs for bushfire prevention. In order to limit the amount of customers that are affected by a REFCL trigger, Powercor is working on deploying a technology called auto circuit reclosures, or ACRs. These are unassuming grey boxes which split up the feeder lines into different sections in an effort to minimise the number of people who are affected by the power fault. Powercor has installed 25 of these ACRs into areas that lose power more often, like Daylesford. Mr Woods said they had seen an improvement and hoped to deploy more units next year. Mr Wood said most of his days were unpredictable. He can have a plan, but some days that can all be thrown out of the window with a failure that needs immediate attention. The weather this year continues to create some of the biggest battles. With the delayed start to summer and third consecutive La Nina year, the grass slashing programs have been delayed and the ground is wetter than usual. Usually as the weather warms up and the ground dries out, line workers are able to do more structural checks. "This is the wettest I've ever seen it go into December like this," Mr Woods said. He said it had sometimes been challenging to get access to a pole or get equipment near the infrastructure because the ground was too soft. He also has to factor in the amount of damage and tracks his team could leave on private property if they were to access a pole. The delayed start to slashing also concerns Mr Woods. "We're gonna be chasing our tail with the volume of work because of the ground conditions." A number of moving parts work together to keep the power on. A 2016 report titled In depth explorations into the state of Victoria's power assets found customer satisfaction across the state is still low. There are problems with ageing infrastructure across Victoria, a focus on reactive maintenance, and a culture of 'cost-reduction' which all play a part in the quality of service. IN THE NEWS: Mr Woods said he knew it could be frustrating when the power went out. "But I'd rather see that than a bushfire coming to these people. It's an inconvenience, but it's not a risk." Have you tried The Courier's app? It can be downloaded here.