Energy is usually generated or processed close to fuel sources and transported to customers through electricity networks and gas pipelines. Electricity network and gas pipeline service providers specialise in providing energy infrastructure and transportation services.
The AER regulates electricity networks in the National Electricity Market (covering eastern and southern Australia) and gas pipelines in jurisdictions other than Western Australia and Tasmania, aiming to ensure service providers operate these assets reliably and cost effectively.
Transmission networks transport electricity from generators to distribution networks in metropolitan and regional areas. They operate at high voltages for efficient transport over long distances. State based transmission networks, with cross-border interconnectors, provide a fully interconnected 'national electricity grid' from Queensland through to New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
Distribution networks transport electricity from points along the transmission lines to customers. Electricity must be stepped down to lower voltages in a distribution network for safe use by customers. A distribution network consists of the poles, underground channels and wires that carry electricity, as well as substations, transformers, switching equipment, and monitoring and signalling equipment.
Transmission pipelines transport natural gas from processing or storage facilities over long distances to domestic markets. The pipelines typically have wide diameters and operate under high pressure to optimise shipping capacity. There is an interconnected pipeline network covering Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and ACT. Transmission pipelines in Northern Territory are not interconnected with other jurisdictions.
A network of distribution pipelines delivers gas from points along transmission pipelines to industrial customers, and from gate stations to customers in cities and towns. A distribution network typically consists of high, medium and low pressure pipelines. The high and medium pressure mains provide a ‘backbone’ that services areas of high demand and transports gas between population concentrations within a distribution area. The low pressure pipes lead off the high pressure mains to end customers.