The Commission undertakes economic regulation in the water and sewerage, electricity, gas, maritime and rail industries, provides advice to local councils under the Local Government Act 1999 (a new function commenced on 30 April 2022), provides advice to the South Australian Government on economic and regulatory matters and conducts formal public inquiries. The ESC Act and various other Acts together provide the Commission with those regulatory and advisory powers and functions. The Commission’s role under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 has not commenced, as the enabling regulations are not in place.
Under the ESC Act the Commission has the primary objective of the ‘…protection of the long-term interests of South Australian consumers with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services’.
The ESC Act sets out seven further factors which the Commission must have regard to in performing its functions, being:
- promoting competitive and fair market conduct
- preventing misuse of monopoly or market power
- facilitating entry into relevant markets
- promoting economic efficiency
- ensuring consumers benefit from competition and efficiency
- facilitating maintenance of the financial viability of regulated industries and the incentive for long-term investment, and
- promoting consistency in regulation with other jurisdictions.
The Commission has two advisory functions.
The first is to provide advice to the Treasurer, on request, in relation to any matter (section 5(f) of the ESC Act). In that capacity the Commission acts as an adviser to the South Australian Government, providing independent advice on economic and regulatory matters.
The second is the provision of advice to local councils under section 122 of the Local Government Act 1999 on the appropriateness of the following matters:
- material amendments made, or proposed to be made, to a council’s long-term financial plan and infrastructure and asset management plan and the reasons for those amendments
- revenue sources as outlined in a council’s funding plan, and
- any other matter prescribed by regulation.
The Commission also has the function of conducting formal public inquiries (Part 7 of the ESC Act). Such inquiries can be initiated by the Commission (into any matters within its regulatory scope), by the Treasurer (into any matter) or by an industry Minister (into any matter concerning a regulated industry).
The ESC Act specifies a general set of functions for the Commission. However, the specific roles of the Commission are assigned to it under industry legislation.
Determine funding arrangements for any infrastructure delivery schemes established by the State Government (not yet commenced, as the enabling regulations are not in place)