SA Street Lighting News: 2019-2020 Tariffs; Farewell Regional LED Tariff "Uplift"; LGA Advocacy Leading the Way

Alexi Lynch

As we wrap up the 2018-2019 financial year, South Australian councils were treated to some good news in early June with street lighting tariffs for the 2019-2020 year announced by SA Power Networks. This time last year, councils were running around frantically trying to determine how to budget for significant increases - with only a few weeks until they kicked in! But this time there is less to worry about.

Lighting Tariffs to Increase by CPI 

For 2019-2020, CPI has simply been applied to tariffs across the board. This makes it easier to budget for next year, and to plan for potential LED projects. This is also the last time you’ll have to worry about extreme last-minute budgeting and waiting on tariffs that could severely impact on potential projects.

This time next year, tariffs will have been well-and-truly locked in. And not just for a 12-month period, but for the next five years. This is one of the on-the-ground impacts of lighting in South Australia moving to a framework where there is more regulatory oversight from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

As we move from a negotiated framework that saw little benefit for SA lighting customers, and onto a regulated framework with an umpire (the AER) to watch over a monopoly service provider (SAPN), we can expect more certainty and more fairness. Things will never be perfect and we still might see price rises or periods of frustration, however the overall picture is positive. 

If you’re still trying to get your head around new tariffs, make sure you’ve downloaded the report that explains it all, SA Public Lighting Regulatory Changes and SAPN Contracts: Everything you need to know about Council-SAPN public lighting contracts and the pending regulatory changes but were too afraid to ask.

Remember What We Said About More Transparency?

In August 2018, we hailed the change to this new regulated “Alternative Control Services” (ACS) framework as a step in the right direction and noted that, “Councils will now have the opportunity to ensure a process where there is access to transparent information and data from SAPN through the regulated framework. SA councils can learn from what has and hasn't worked in other states over the last decade and ensure better outcomes”.

Well here we are nearly 12 months later, and councils do indeed have access to more transparent information. If you haven’t already done so, you can view SAPN’s very detailed pricing proposal, inputs and all the attachments from the AER's website

There were 31 responses to the SAPN’s proposal, including 7 related to the street lighting component of the proposal. The Local Government Association engaged Ironbark to develop a response which can be downloaded directly from here. You’ll see in this report that the main areas we investigated were around lighting failure rates, the annuity term for luminaires, proposed cleaning and testing of LED luminaires, capital expenditure (especially around the capital cost of LEDs), SAPN’s cable replacement program, column audits and replacements, and use of pole charges.

Thanks also to the Cities of Port Lincoln Onkaparinga, Norwood, Payneham & St Peters, Charles Sturt, West Torrens and Holdfast Bay for also providing submissions and letters of support to the AER supporting the LGA submission.

A draft decision from the AER will be released in September 2019 and we’ll find out if we’ve been successful in any of the items we put forward. Fingers crossed for a good outcome! This will be followed by an opportunity for SAPN to submit a revised submission, and then another opportunity for local government stakeholders to submit a response to the revised proposals and draft decision later in the year. 

No More Regional "Uplift" for the SAPN LED Tariff

Councils in regional areas seeking to change to LED via the SAPN LED tariff previously faced extra charges due to costs incurred by SAPN in servicing regional and rural councils. This has been removed – for 2019-2020 there are no longer extra charges and just the single SAPN LED tariff for those who want to move via the SAPN LED tariff. 

Congratulations should be passed onto the LGA and SAPN who have continued to discuss the issue of regional pricing versus “postage stamp” pricing, which remains the subject of ongoing discussions within the Public Lighting Working Group (PLWG). The PLWG was in late 2018 to facilitate a practical and representative interface between SAPN and South Australian public lighting customers, including councils and the SA Government’s Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI). It was established as a representative body for negotiating issues under the current regulatory framework and facilitating the practical transition to the new ACS framework. 

The PLWG is coordinated and chaired by the LGA and is comprised of representatives of the City of Charles Sturt, City of Holdfast Bay, City of Mitcham, Mount Barker District Council, City of Mount Gambier, City of Norwood Payneham and St Peters, City of Onkaparinga, City of Port Lincoln, City of Prospect and City of West Torrens, DPTI and SAPN.