The conversation so far

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Ensuring our customers are at the heart of our business starts with good engagement.

We are committed to working with customers and stakeholders to understand their needs and deliver services they value.

In the past 8-10 years, the way that South Australians source and share energy has been evolving. The adoption of new technologies, such as rooftop solar panels and batteries, is turning many customers into electricity generators and changing how they utilise our network.

The explosion of digitisation and self-service in other industries and the emergence of these new technologies is also driving changing customer expectations. Customers are demanding

Ensuring our customers are at the heart of our business starts with good engagement.

We are committed to working with customers and stakeholders to understand their needs and deliver services they value.

In the past 8-10 years, the way that South Australians source and share energy has been evolving. The adoption of new technologies, such as rooftop solar panels and batteries, is turning many customers into electricity generators and changing how they utilise our network.

The explosion of digitisation and self-service in other industries and the emergence of these new technologies is also driving changing customer expectations. Customers are demanding much more from the network than ever before. They want more and different services, such as the ability to export and trade their surplus energy, and these changing demands are placing significant pressure on the stability and reliability of the network.

At the same time there has been an increasing focus on the electricity prices driven in South Australia by rapidly rising retail and generation charges - not distribution charges.

Our engagement principles

Our key engagement principles include:

Designing our 2020-25 Regulator Proposal customer engagement program

Engagement with our customers and stakeholders occurs on a daily basis on a variety of topics and through a range of channels, including our comprehensive framework of reference groups and our Customer Consultative Panel (CCP).

Our 2020 Reset Customer Engagement Program began in February 2017. It has been designed as a progressive, phased program to provide multiple and diverse opportunities for dialogue and engagement.

Regular interactions with our Customer Consultative Panel and reference groups (which typically meet quarterly) underpin our program. The panel and reference groups were established in late 2016 and include more than 60 customers and consumer advocates from diverse occupations and interest areas including arborists, renewables, business, community, and electricity advisory.

The five key objectives of our engagement are to:

  • Ensure customers and stakeholders are well equipped to actively participate in the engagement
  • Engage customers and stakeholders on issues that matter to them
  • Ensure ‘no surprises’ for both SA Power Networks and our stakeholders throughout engagement process
  • Ensure that the concerns and views of our customers and stakeholders are considered in the prudent optimisation of our costs, services and prices
  • Ensure our engagement meets all relevant engagement principles (SAPN, AER + alignment with AA1000SES and IAP2)

Delivering our engagement

In 2017, our engagement was broad and we sought customer insights around three key themes that were identified in our preliminary customer research:

  • Network price
  • Network reliability and resilience
  • The network of the future

We considered the priorities emerging from this early engagement in our preliminary expenditure forecasting in late 2017. These preliminary forecasts have been based on keeping expenditures as low as possible. They were then used in early 2018 to engage with stakeholders through a series of deep dive workshops, where we explored the capital and operating expenditure forecasts that will be included in our Draft Plan.

Our comprehensive engagement program has provided rich, and at times diverse, feedback which we have sought to balance in our planning. Broadly, customers have told us they value three areas:

  • Keeping prices down
  • A safe and reliable network
  • Transitioning to a new energy future

Please click on the links below to learn more about our engagement activities:

  • Rule change proposal aims to support even more solar

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    15 July, 2020

    SA Power Networks has joined ACOSS, St Vincent de Paul and the Total Environment Centre in proposing AEMC consideration of a rule change to help support more solar and other ‘Distributed Energy Resources’ (DER) connect to electricity distribution networks.

    The issue needs addressing as many electricity networks are reaching their capacity to support DER and new investments are required to support additional DER take-up. We are proposing clearer rules on access to the network for solar and other DER customers and a pricing approach for that access.

    The various parties have submitted proposals for a rule change following a 10 month consultation with over 120 stakeholders, across three workshops, undertaken by TEC and ACOSS and six other partners (AEMC, AER, ARENA, Energy Consumers Australia, Energy Networks Australia, and Public Interest Advocacy Centre) via the DEIP Access and Pricing Work program.

    Most parties involved agree that a rule change is necessary, but any changes approved by the AEMC should provide customers with significant notice. If approved, they would not be implemented in South Australia until 2025 at the earliest. SA Power Networks is proposing a rule change that would ensure:

    • Customers have the right to be able to export energy to the grid from rooftop solar and other DER;
    • Networks invest efficiently to support the continued take-up of solar PV; and
    • Costs to support solar PV are fairly allocated between customers and in a way that is revenue neutral for distribution networks.

    Some key points:

    • We are passionate about supporting South Australia’s exciting energy transition and have a significant role to play in helping SA achieve net-100% renewable energy supply
    • This proposal does not increase network revenue (which is approved in a separate process by the Australian Energy Regulator) – it is about how we allocate tariffs to collect that approved revenue from customers for the services they use.
    • The reason we believe this needs to be actioned is because networks are reaching the limits of their capacity to support solar/DER and without investment, at some stage new DER customers will no longer be able to connect, or will have their export capacity severely limited.
    • The rule change if approved would be unlikely to take effect until after 2025 in SA and initially only apply to new customers or those upgrading their equipment
    • We are talking about a minimal charge of ‘tens of dollars’ per annum, with any $ gained from tariffs for exports balanced by a reduction in $ for consumption tariffs
    • The intent is for solar customers to contribute toward the cost of supporting their connection but also recognising the positive benefits they also bring
    • There will be significant consultation by the AEMC in finalising a position and any consequent rule change.

    You can click here to see our media statement, our Frequently Asked Questions and our rule change submission. More information is also available at the AEMC website.

  • Appointment of General Manager Customer and Community

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    15 July, 2020
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    We are pleased to announce that Jess Vonthethoff has been appointed to the position of General Manager Customer and Community. Jess will officially take over the role on Monday 4 May 2020.

    Over the past three years Jess has led the customer and stakeholder engagement process for the 2020-25 Regulatory Reset submission. This has involved broad based customer surveys, focus groups and multiple consultative workshops held across South Australia and interstate on topics such as innovative tariff design and South Australia’s world leading integration of renewables into the electricity grid.

    Jess has a passion for improving outcomes for customers and leading a true customer-focused culture.

    "I have had the privilege of speaking to many customers and stakeholders about what is important to them and I am excited about the opportunity to deepen our understanding of customer priorities in my new role as General Manager, Customer and Community. Our customer journey is continuing to evolve and I am committed to ensuring our organisation delivers outcomes that are in the long term interests of consumers" said Jess.

    Jess has been with SA Power Networks for 11 years, most recently as Manager Stakeholder Engagement and Communications and has over 20 years’ experience in communications, community engagement and stakeholder management. Jess is a member of the Energy Networks Australia national committee on Consumer Engagement and Communications, and also represents SA Power Networks on a number of broader stakeholder forums, including those representing vulnerable customers.