Inquiries

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The Commission can conduct public Inquiries under Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act. Such Inquiries can be initiated by the Commission (into any matters within our regulatory scope), by the Treasurer (into any matter) or by an industry Minister (into any matter concerning a regulated industry).

Public documents relating to Inquiries and advice provided by the Commission are available below.

Small-scale off-grid water, sewerage & energy services regulatory arrangements inquiry

The Commission’s final Inquiry report outlines changes to the regulatory framework for small-scale and off-grid water, sewerage and energy services in South Australia, commencing 1 July 2022. As well as accounting for existing compliance obligations, the changes are designed to place more transparency and emphasis on licensed small-scale networks providing assurance to their customers and the Commission, that the services they provide are sustainable over the medium to longer term.

This will occur through the Commission adopting a verified trust and accountability regulatory approach to small-scale networks, as well as requiring all small-scale network licensees to become members of the Energy and Water Ombudsman (SA) Limited scheme.

South Australian bulk grain export supply chain costs inquiry

The Inquiry into the South Australian bulk grain export supply chain costs was conducted by the Commission pursuant to its formal Inquiry powers as established under the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, in accordance with the Terms of Reference issued by the previous Treasurer on 16 March 2017 (as subsequently amended). In summary, the findings are that: 

  • South Australia is a small player in the world-wide bulk grains export market. Its grain export supply chain faces continued competitive threat from existing and emerging low-cost producers. While the State produces high quality grain, and makes that grain available for export in a very timely manner, our supply chain has little influence on the global market, is vulnerable to global trends and operates under an imperative to reduce costs in order to maintain market share.
  • Our grain export supply chain can be broadly categorised into three segments: freight transport, port facilities, and storage and handling.
  • Freight transport and port services are either competitive or subject to sufficient regulatory oversight so as to provide a suitable proxy to competitive outcomes. Viterra’s upcountry storage and handling facilities are not covered by industry-specific economic regulation; in consequence, the Inquiry has focussed largely on the performance and behaviour of Viterra, given its position of strength within the grain export supply chain.
  • At this time, the grain export supply chain is not demonstrably inefficient in terms of its costs, from both an overall and individual supply chain segment perspective. Further, while Viterra is presently earning returns (on average) towards the upper end of what might be expected for a firm with Viterra’s level of risk, those returns are not currently excessive. The extent to which this continues to hold true over time will be dependent on Viterra’s future actions as a provider of grain export supply chain services, given its position of strength within the supply chain.

Reliability and quality of electricity supply on the Eyre Peninsula inquiry

The Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy has released the Commission's final report on the Inquiry into the reliability and quality of electricity supply on the Eyre Peninsula.

The Inquiry has found that the most cost effective options for improving reliability of supply on the Eyre Peninsula in the short term (within the next 2 years) include installing diesel generators near Yadnarie, Ceduna and Streaky Bay. 

Cost effective medium-term options for improving reliability of supply include targeted network hardening (re-insulating feeders prone to lightning strikes), which could be implemented over the next 3 to 5 years. 

The best long-term options for improving reliability will depend on future electricity demand on the Eyre Peninsula, which will be heavily dependent on whether or not the Iron Road magnetite project proceeds. If it proceeds, the electricity infrastructure will need to be augmented to support the higher demand, which would largely be funded by Iron Road as the primary cause for the change in demand. If it does not proceed, ElectraNet will at least have to replace the existing Cultana to Port Lincoln transmission line, which is at the end of its useful life.

Licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia inquiry

On 17 August 2017, the Commission released the Final Report on the Inquiry into the licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia.

This Inquiry was conducted under Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 to determine whether or not there should be any changes to the Commission’s technical licensing conditions for electricity generators connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

The Commission found that there was a need for it to continue to apply transitional technical conditions within licences for new electricity generators which are to be connected to the NEM (regardless of generation type) – on the basis that this will protect South Australian consumers’ long-term interests with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services.

In 2019, a further review of Licensing Arrangements for Generators was undertaken. The Commission’s final decision was to cease imposing 12 of the current 15 model technical licence conditions for electricity generators. These were introduced following the Commission’s 2017 Inquiry into the technical licence conditions applying to electricity generators seeking to connect to the South Australian power system. The three conditions to be retained are condition 9 (disturbance ride-through – voltage phase angle shift), condition 11 (system strength) and condition 16 (system restoration).

Drinking water and sewerage retail services pricing reform inquiry

On 24 September 2012, the Treasurer of South Australia referred to the Essential Services Commission an Inquiry into pricing reform for drinking water and sewerage retail services provided by SA Water. The Inquiry was referred to the Commission pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002.

The Commission has submitted its final Inquiry report to the Government for its consideration as it frames future policy in the water pricing area. The final Inquiry report takes account of an extensive stakeholder consultation process which followed the release of the draft Inquiry report in July 2014.

Gas standing contract price path 2011 inquiry

On 5 November 2010, Origin Energy Retail Ltd submitted to the Commission a proposal for the price path to apply to SA gas standing contract prices for the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014.

The Commission has now completed its Inquiry under Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 and has published its Final Determination, setting gas standing contract prices for the three year period to 30 June 2014.

In making the Final Price Determination, the Commission has reviewed the various key cost components of gas retail services, namely wholesale gas costs, transmission costs, retail operating costs and the retail margin. This review was undertaken with reference to a proposed price path put forward by Origin Energy in November 2010, which was released for public consultation. Further, the Commission has had regard to advice from independent experts on each of the cost forecasts.

Potable water and sewerage pricing processes 2010-2011 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer has referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2010-11 potable water and sewerage pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission is to consider information provided to Cabinet and the document ‘Transparency statement - Part A - 2010-11 potable water and sewerage prices South Australia’ dated May 2010.

The Commission has finalised its Inquiry into the process that led to Cabinet’s decision on SA Water’s potable water and sewerage charges to apply in 2010-11. The Cabinet decision led to an average increase in potable water charges of 21.7% in real terms. Metropolitan and regional sewerage charges increased by 0.8% and 1.3% respectively in real terms.

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2009-2010 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer has referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2009/10 water and wastewater pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission is to consider information provided to Cabinet and the document ‘transparency statement - water and wastewater prices in metropolitan and regional South Australia 2009-10’ dated February 2009.

The Commission has finalised its Inquiry into the process that led to Cabinet’s decision on SA Water’s water and wastewater charges to apply in 2009-10. The Cabinet decision resulted in an average increase in water charges of 17.9% in real terms. Metropolitan wastewater charges remained constant in real terms, with regional wastewater charges increasing by 0.5% in real terms.

South Australian rail access regime 2009 inquiry

The Commission has finalised its Inquiry into the access regime that applies to the major intrastate railways in South Australia. The release of this final Inquiry report marks the completion of the SA Rail access regime Inquiry in accordance with the terms of reference, as set by the Acting Treasurer, and the objectives set out under section 6 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002.

The Commission has concluded that the access regime is generally consistent with the requirements of clause 2 of the CIRA, although the Commission recommends that certain amendments to the access regime could be made to achieve greater consistency, and that there are some minor modifications that could be made to otherwise improve the manner in which the access regime operates.

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2008- 2009 inquiry

In February 2008, the Treasurer referred to the Commission, pursuant to Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, a public Inquiry into the processes leading to the Cabinet decision in late 2007 on the level and structure of SA Water's water and wastewater prices in metropolitan and regional South Australia for 2008-09.

The 2008-09 pricing decision increased water prices by 12.7% in real terms. Cabinet also took an in-principle decision to increase water prices by the same magnitude in each of the following four years. These increases in water prices are driven particularly by the significant investments in capital projects (e.g. $1.1 billion for a desalination plant) required over the next few years to address current water shortages.

Gas standing contract price path 2008 inquiry

The Commission conducted an Inquiry into the retailer component of regulated gas prices to apply from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2011. The retailer component, charged by Origin Energy, represents just under half of an average residential gas bill.

Having considered the proposal put forward by Origin Energy, submissions from interested parties and expert reports it has commissioned, the Commission’s final decision is to set a gas standing contract price path lower than that proposed by Origin Energy.

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2007-2008 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2007-08 water and wastewater pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission considered a document ‘Transparency statement - water and wastewater prices in metropolitan and regional South Australia 2007-08’ dated January 2007.

In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission was required to consider a document ‘Transparency statement - water and on 8 June 2007, the Commission forwarded to the Treasurer and the Minister for Water Security the ‘Final report - Inquiry into 2007-2008 metropolitan and regional water and wastewater pricing process’.

ETSA Utilities network performance and customer response January 2006 inquiry

From 19-22 January 2006 there were power outages affecting a significant number of electricity distribution network customers. Some customers experienced prolonged supply interruptions and delays and difficulties in contacting, or obtaining information from, ETSA Utilities.

Amendments to the Electricity Distribution Code arose as a result of the Commission's Inquiry into the January 2006 heatwave, and were the subject of a public consultation process. The Commission considered that an amendment to the regulatory regime was appropriate, increasing the amount that ETSA Utilities must pay customers for outages of more than 24 hours.

The Commission’s Final Report required ETSA Utilities to provide a report addressing separately each of the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.

 
 

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2006-2007 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2006-2007 water and wastewater pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission considered a document ‘Transparency statement - water and wastewater prices in metropolitan and regional South Australia 2006-07’ dated August 2005.

On 30 November 2005, the Commission forwarded to the Treasurer and the Minister for Administrative Services the ‘Final report - Inquiry into 2006-2007 metropolitan and regional water and wastewater pricing process’. As required by the Act, the final report was released on 28 December 2005.

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2005-2006 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2005-2006 water and wastewater pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission considered a document ‘Transparency statement - water and wastewater prices in metropolitan and regional South Australia 2005-06’ dated December 2004.

On 30 March 2005, the Commission forwarded to the Treasurer and the Minister for Administrative Services the ‘Final report - Inquiry into 2005-2006 metropolitan and regional water and wastewater pricing process’. As required by the Act, the final report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on Monday 23 May 2005.

Water and wastewater pricing processes 2004-2005 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2004-2005 wastewater pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission considered a document ‘Transparency statement - wastewater prices in South Australia 2004-05’ dated June 2004.

On 13 October 2004, the Commission forwarded to the Treasurer the ‘Final report - Inquiry into 2004-2005 wastewater pricing process’. The Commission's report forms Part B of the transparency statement. The Government's response is Part C. As required by the Act, the final report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 24 November 2004.

Urban water pricing processes 2004-2005 inquiry

Pursuant to section 35(1) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, the Treasurer referred to the Commission an Inquiry into 2004-2005 urban water pricing processes. In undertaking the Inquiry, the Commission considered a document ‘Transparency statement - urban water prices in South Australia 2004-05’ dated January 2004.

On 7 April 2004, the Commission forwarded to the Treasurer the ‘Final report - Inquiry into 2004-2005 urban water pricing process’. As required by the Act, the final report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 1 June 2004.

Electricity standing contract price path 2004 inquiry

The Commission conducted an Inquiry into the retailer component of regulated electricity prices to apply from 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2007. The retailer component, charged by AGL SA, represents just over half of a customer’s electricity bill.

In December 2004 the Commission issued the final Price Determination, fixing the electricity standing contract prices which may be charged to small electricity customers by AGL SA. The Price Determination set a price path for all standing contract prices, having effect for a period of three years from 1 January 2005.

In January 2005 AGL SA sought a review of the final Price Determination under section 31 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 in respect of:

those parts of the Price Determination relating to wholesale energy costs, retail operating costs and retail margin (which AGL SA felt were too low or otherwise inadequate),
the failure of the Commission to follow statutory requirements and objectives; and 
those parts of the Price Determination that were beyond power.

The Commission had a six-week period within which to finalise the Review. In accordance with the requirements of the Act, the Commission provided the Minister (the Treasurer in this instance) with a copy of the application and invited him to join as a party to the review and make a submission on those matters raised by AGL SA. The Treasurer's submission was received in February 2005.

The Commission gave extensive consideration to the matters raised by AGL in its Review Application and in the submission from the Treasurer, Hon K Foley. The Commission decided, pursuant to section 31(8) of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002, to confirm the Standing Contract Price Determination of December 2004.