The obligations on MECs require them to proactively eliminate, where practicable, the risk of an incident before it occurs, or otherwise to minimise the risk of failure to the extent that the cost of doing so is not grossly disproportionate to the risk reduction achieved. This is the effect of legislative and regulatory requirements that oblige MEC’s to maintain a safe workplace, safe systems of work, a safe supply and the safety of staff and the public. This goes beyond an obligation to mitigate the risks when a safety incident, despite precautions, actually occurs.
The required practice is to demonstrate what is reasonably practicable by implementing all controls unless the implementation of that control is technically not feasible, and demonstrate that the cost of implementation far outweighs the risk reduction benefit (e.g. costs are grossly disproportionate to risk), or that implementation of the control creates other unacceptable risks.
In general, what is considered to be acceptable costs will depend on the societal benefits gained from that expenditure, versus the willingness of the community to bear the costs of implementing the control. As part of its role as the economic regulator, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) reviews the costs to be borne by the electricity users and determines, at a high level, whether any extra expenditure is warranted to reduce risk whilst maintaining increasing costs within a reasonable accepted range. Where required, Governments may also mandate expenditure on controls to reduce risk that are above and beyond what the AER has determined reasonable.
ESV is not a planning referral authority, and does not have direct involvement in planning decisions. ESV holds MECs to account by monitoring and enforcing the safety of the design, construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of their networks; and monitors compliance with the obligations under the Act to minimise risk, as far as practicable, as articulated in an ESV accepted ESMS and BMP, and approved ELCMP.