Off-grid networks regulatory performance
There are regional and remote communities in South Australia that are provided with electricity through standalone (off-grid) networks. Some of these networks are not connected to the national electricity market and some are connected to the national electricity market via an inset network arrangement.
The Commission regulates off-grid electricity supply services through the licensing regime established by the Electricity Act 1996 (Electricity Act).
The Commission licenses all participants in the electricity supply industry where those participants engage in the generation of electricity, operation of a transmission or distribution network, power system control or electricity retailing.
Licensees are required to operate in accordance with specified licence conditions set by the Commission. Off-grid licensees providing retail and distribution services have licence requirements broadly covering:
- consumer protections – behavioural standards and minimum requirements that retailers must comply with when dealing with their customers, including reliability of supply requirements
- technical requirements – such as the development of a Safety, Reliability, Maintenance and Technical Management Plan (SRMTMP), a connection policy and a metering plan (if applicable), and reporting requirements.
Customers of off-grid electricity licensees are afforded similar consumer protections to customers connected to the National Electricity Market. Licensees are required to adhere to the following consumer protection obligations:
- Customer supply contracts – requirements to develop standard terms and conditions on which a licensee will connect customers’ supply and sell and supply electricity.
- Customer dispute resolution procedures – requirements to have procedures in place, based on AS ISO 10002-2006 ‘Customer Satisfaction – Guidelines for Complaints Handling in Organisations’.
- Supply obligations – requirements to maintain the quality of supply and minimise interruptions, provide notice for planned interruptions and connect customers within agreed timeframes.
- Customer service obligations – requirements to provide regular bills containing specific information, and to conduct regular meter readings.
- Dealing with billing disputes – requirements relating to undercharging and overcharging including minimum payment methods, offering flexible payment arrangements, and rules relating to security deposits.
- Disconnections and restoration of supply – obligations around disconnecting customer supply for non-payment, timeliness for restoration of supply and prohibitions on disconnection.
The Commission monitors and reports on off-grid networks’ compliance with regulatory requirements and takes enforcement action in instances of non-compliance, if necessary.
Regulatory performance reports provide information on the performance outcomes of regulated providers of essential services in South Australia. This includes the network service/reliability performance of off-grid electricity networks.
While the Commission assesses energy entities performance against annual service standards and reliability standards each year, events may occur during the year that warrant special ad hoc reporting – referred to as Significant Performance Events.
The Commission considers the following criteria in determining whether a Significant Performance Event has occurred:
- a significant number of customers are affected for a lengthy duration, or there is reason to believe that a significant number of customers may have been affected for a lengthy duration.
- the event is likely to seriously impact on the licensed entity’s ability to meet one of more of its annual service standard(s) or reliability target(s).
- the Commission needs to undertake a review to be confident that the licensed entity has complied with its obligations under the relevant industry Code(s).
- there is strong stakeholder interest, or there is anticipated to be strong stakeholder interest.
The criteria recognise that a balance needs to be struck between reporting on every event and the resources it entails, and meeting stakeholder expectations on the provision of information in such situations.
The Commission has published the following significant event report, in respect of the performance of off-grid electricity networks.