AER determination on South Australia public lighting dispute

A long-running dispute over the cost of street lighting in South Australia has been resolved after the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) today issued a determination on the matter.

The matter arose in 2013 when the Local Government Association of South Australia gave notice of dispute under the National Electricity Law concerning the charges for street lighting services provided by South Australia Power Networks (SAPN) to 66 councils.

After a careful process that included a direction to seek alternative dispute resolution, the AER has determined that SAPN had been overcharging its customers.

The AER’s determination relates only to the 2010-15 regulatory period. The parties will need to consider the implications of the determination for street lighting charges during the 2015-20 period.

The AER has given the parties the opportunity to negotiate how the overpayment should be returned, and if agreement cannot be reached, the entire sum becomes a debt due from SAPN to the local councils.

AER board member Jim Cox welcomed the conclusion of dispute:

 “We have not made this determination lightly but have reflected carefully on the previous regulatory determinations, submissions made by the parties, and the regulatory regime in place at the time.

“Street lighting is an invaluable community resource that should be delivered in safe and efficient manner.”

Notes to editors

  • On 9 December 2013 the PLCs gave notice of a dispute concerning the charges for Street Lighting Use Of System services provided by SAPN.
  • The AER directed the parties under section 129 of the National Electricity Law to attempt to resolve the dispute by alternative dispute resolution.  The alternative dispute resolution was unsuccessful.
  • On 2 May 2017, legal representatives for the public lighting customers wrote to the AER stating that they had been unable to reach agreement and requested that the AER determine the access dispute between the parties. 
  • The AER corresponded with the parties and settled the scope and process for the dispute (August 2017).
  • In making its determination the AER provided an opportunity for the parties to make submissions, held an oral hearing, issued a draft determination in February 2019 and consequentially allowed for further submission before publishing its final determination.

About the AER

The AER works to make all Australian energy consumers better off, now and in the future. 

  • We regulate electricity networks and covered gas pipelines, in all jurisdictions except Western Australia. We set the amount of revenue that network businesses can recover from customers for using these networks.
  • We enforce the laws for the National Electricity Market and spot gas markets in southern and eastern Australia. We monitor and report on the conduct of energy businesses and the effectiveness of competition.
  • We protect the interests of household and small business consumers by enforcing the Retail Law. Our retail energy market functions cover New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Queensland.

We drive effective competition where it is feasible and provide effective regulation where it is not. We equip consumers to participate effectively, including through our Energy Made Easy website, and protect those who are unable to safeguard their own interests. We use our expertise to inform debate about Australia’s energy future.

Issued date: 
24 October 2019
AER reference: 
NR 26/19
AER Media 0466 409 921