SA Power Networks has lodged its electricity distribution network plans for 2015-2020 with the Australian Energy Regulator, ensuring major benefits to the SA economy and customers with minimum impact on electricity prices.

The detailed proposal outlines plans for ensuring the electricity distribution network is able to reliably and safely meet the changing energy needs of South Australian households and businesses.

The proposal will be subject to a rigorous review process, including public consultation, with the AER’s initial determination due in April 2015 and a final determination in October 2015.

“We are keeping the lid on our prices for customers in 2015-2020,” said Stakeholder Relations Manager, Paul Roberts.

“South Australian electricity consumers will continue to benefit from reliable, safe, and cost efficient distribution services and we will start to shape a network that is better placed to support customer interest in rooftop solar, battery storage, and electric vehicles as they emerge.”

“At the same time, increased investment will result in more than 300 new jobs for South Australians and flow-ons to the general economy.”

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks had undertaken an unprecedented level of community consultation and research in developing the proposal. This included understanding the issues of most concern to customers and their willingness to pay for some targeted new initiatives or different approaches in some areas, including safety and vegetation management.

About $250 million of the capital investment program directly relates to customer-initiated investment in improved vegetation management approaches and bushfire and road safety.

“We have clearly heard the concern from some sections of the community regarding prices. Our customers have also told us they want us to maintain safety, reliability and quality of supply and they support targeted new investment,” Mr Roberts said.

“In terms of the average age of assets, our distribution network in SA is the oldest in Australia and we need to accelerate investment in replacing ageing assets, particularly our huge fleet of Stobie poles, to arrest their ongoing deterioration,” Mr Roberts said.

“We are planning an orderly update of assets over the next 10 years or so to minimise the impact on prices for customers and ensure the network is in a condition to maintain the reliable supply customers require.

Mr Roberts said SA Power Networks was also preparing for the future to ensure the network could accommodate changing customer behaviour, with customers continuing to take up new energy options such as rooftop solar, possibly combined with battery storage.

“Government and Regulators are wanting energy companies to develop new tariff options that ensure clearer pricing signals for customers’ future investment choices and improved fairness in pricing. The Australian Energy Market Commission is currently developing new rules to allow the introduction of a competitive market for metering services, and to encourage introduction of cost-reflective tariffs that reflect people’s use of the network rather than their energy use. This is important in promoting efficient investment as customers consider investing in roof top solar, battery storage and electric vehicles,” Mr Roberts said.

“We are proposing the gradual introduction of smart-ready meters, which can support introduction of a new Capacity-based Tariff for small customers in 2017-18. We are planning that from July 2015 smart-ready meters be installed as the standard meter in all new and replacement meter situations.”

Those wanting further information on the SA Power Networks submission can view the full submission or an overview at either www.sapowernetworks.com.au or www.talkingpower.com.au.

Michelle is a freelance journalist and editor who, as well as covering all the latest and breaking industry news, is a gun proofreader and editor who never misses a trick.

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