Regional and Remote Customers

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The extensive area serviced by our network means 70% of the infrastructure delivers energy to 30% of customers. The average customer density per kilometre of distribution line in South Australia is the lowest among Australian distributors and there are customers at the edge of the grid who experience significantly lower service levels than customers closer to urban centres. Many of these customers are connected to the network by Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) lines.

The SWER line was developed in New Zealand in 1925 for cost effective rural and remote electrification. It is used all around the world and was

The extensive area serviced by our network means 70% of the infrastructure delivers energy to 30% of customers. The average customer density per kilometre of distribution line in South Australia is the lowest among Australian distributors and there are customers at the edge of the grid who experience significantly lower service levels than customers closer to urban centres. Many of these customers are connected to the network by Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) lines.

The SWER line was developed in New Zealand in 1925 for cost effective rural and remote electrification. It is used all around the world and was first introduced in SA in the 1950’s for the electrification of farms. Today, SWER lines comprise around 29,000km of our network providing electricity to around 32,000 predominantly regional and remote customers in South Australia.

A Regional and Remote Customer Working Group has been established to better understand the technical and economic aspects of SWER lines, the unique role they play in the network and the challenges SWER customers face - ultimately to improve the service levels of regional and remote customers in South Australia.

  • Talking regional energy supply

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    22 Oct 2020
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    SA Power Networks and its Customer Consultative Panel (CCP) are seeking expressions of interest from customers who live in regional parts of South Australia to talk about their energy supply.

    A key focus is customers who are served by Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) powerlines. These 19,000 Volt powerlines serve about 30% of the State, connecting farms and other rural properties to the electricity network.

    “SWER lines were built as early as the 1950s and offered a cheap and efficient way to build and deliver power supply to customers in more scattered communities,” said Jess Vonthethoff, GM Customer & Community at SA Power Networks.

    “These SWER lines have served us reasonably well, but by their nature – long single-strand lines traversing hills, valleys, farms and pasture country etc – they are subject to a variety of interruptions caused by the usual suspects such as bad weather and equipment failure, but finding and fixing faults can take a long time.

    “We are particularly aware that not all SWER-supplied customers are getting the standard of service we believe is acceptable today, with some experiencing many days without power each year. We want to talk to them about that and the emergence of new technologies, including Stand Alone Power Systems (SAPS), which may offer an alternative,” Ms Vonthethoff said.

    Dr Andrew Nance, Chair of the CCP, said that while technology has come a long way, customer input was essential before developing proposals to discuss with other stakeholders and regulators that determine network spending.

    “We have established a working group to better understand the experiences of the worst served customers in South Australia. They are mostly people in remote areas served by SWER. We want to talk to these customers about being supplied by a SWER line and test the interest in SAPS,” Mr Nance said.

    Ms Karina Ewer, CEO of the District Council of Streaky Bay and member of the CCP added, “This will help inform our thinking about future options for supplying remote customers. We will take those options to bodies such as the Australian Energy Market Commission, Australian Energy Regulator and Essential Services Commission of SA.”

    The CCP is proposing a mix of engagement, including online forums, focus groups and a series of Community Information Sessions in regional areas in 2021 to understand regional issues and seek customer insights and feedback.

    Customers interested in participating can contact Alexandra Lewis on alex.lewis@sapowernetworks.com.au or call 13 12 61.

  • SWER line customer focus groups

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    SA Power Networks has a Customer Consultative Panel (CCP) to ensure customer views are considered in our decision-making. Remote and regional customers and improving the reliability for those worst served customers is one of the focus areas of the current panel.

    A regional and remote customers sub-group was established to look at opportunities for worst served customers in the State in terms of reliability and electricity supply. One of the objectives of the group is to become better informed about the technical and economic aspects of Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) lines, the role they play in the network and the particular issues SWER customers on SWER lines face.

    To understand the particular issues or challenges SWER customers face, the sub-group propose to run a number of focus groups with SWER customers in late 2020 or early 2021. If you would like to participate in one of these discussions please contact Alexandra Lewis on 0428 695 173 or alex.lewis@sapowernetworks.com.au.

  • Some facts about SWER lines

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    A regional and remote customers sub-group has been established to look at opportunities for worst served customers in the State in terms of reliability and electricity supply. One of the objectives of the group is to become better informed about the technical and economic aspects of Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) lines, the role they play in the network and the particular issues SWER customers on SWER lines face.

    The extensive area serviced by our network means 70% of SA Power Networks' infrastructure delivers energy to 30% of customers. The average customer density per kilometre of distribution line in South Australia is the lowest among Australian distributors and there are customers at the edge of the grid who experience significantly lower service levels than customers closer to urban centres.

    Did you know?

    • 32,115 of our customers are served on 19kV SWER feeders, whereas 820,000 customers are serviced by 11kV lines
    • 29,119 km of our network is SWER lines
    • The average number of SWER customers per km of line is 1 customer per km. In comparison there is an average of 40 customers per km of 11kV line
    • The average SWER line length per customer is 0.9km
    • The average SWER feeder length is 65km vs 20 km for 11kV
    • The average restoration time following an outage for SWER customers is 5.8 hours vs 3.1 hours for 11kV line customers