South Australian Councils $14.8 Million Public Lighting Tariff Savings

South Australian councils will see major public lighting tariff savings due to a new collaborative approach between councils, the South Australian Local Government Association (LGA) and SA Power Networks. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has announced public lighting tariffs from 1st July and councils will see costs reduce by as much as 13% from what was initially proposed thanks to advocacy from the LGA and the work of the Public Lighting Working Group (PLWG). Overall councils will save $14.8m over the next five years, a fantastic outcome for councils and ratepayers.

It comes as public lighting services in South Australia undergo a significant change, being reclassified as an Alternative Control Service (ACS) from 1st July moving away from the current Negotiated Distribution Service (or NDS) and brings SA in line with the rest of Australia.

It means that instead of councils negotiating with monopoly-provider SA Power Networks independent of the AER, public lighting tariffs are now automatically regulated by the AER.

Since November 2018, the LGA, councils and SA Power Networks have been working collaboratively to ensure this transition is as smooth as possible, forming the PLWG that meets every month to discuss key operational, regulatory and strategic issues.

The open, collaborative and transparent nature of this group has helped ensure lighting tariffs are cost-reflective and fair, and enable SA Power Networks to maintain and improve the public lighting network. It has also opened up new opportunities to work together.

The Public Lighting Working Group has resulted in significant benefits for LGA members. As well as the tariff savings – money that can now be used to invest in leisure centres and child care centres or upgrading remaining lighting to energy efficient and LEDs – the sector is now working closely with SAPN in the delivery of their public lighting portal and smart city projects.

For the last 18 months, the Public Lighting Working Group has been negotiating around key public lighting issues and ultimately found common ground regarding cleaning of lights, maintaining lighting columns and cables, and ensuring regional councils are paying the same as metropolitan councils for services.

The tariffs are now essentially set for the next five years, making it much easier for councils to plan and budget over the long-term.

One of the key challenges when the Public Lighting Working Group next meets is how to accelerate the roll-out of LEDs across the state. With external factors such as the global Minamata Convention on Mercury making it more difficult to source affordable replacements for old lights, the move to LED is becoming more important.

Councils that have not yet changed their residential street lights to LEDs are paying 5.6 times the electricity use compared to their neighbours who have made the change. The return on investment is clear, and with a reduction in the LED tariffs for the next five years the case is even stronger.

The Public Lighting Working Group is comprised of metropolitan and regional local government councils including the Cities of Charles Sturt, Marion, Holdfast Bay, Mitcham, Mount Gambier, Norwood Payneham and St Peters, Onkaparinga, Port Lincoln, Prospect, West Torrens, Mount Barker District Council, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) and consultants from Ironbark Sustainability. It is coordinated and chaired by the LGA and frequently has representatives from the AER attending.

The transition to ACS is just around the corner and while it’s been a long road with a lot of hard work from all members of the PLWG, special mention must go to Adam Gray, Matthew Allen, Tom Walker, Debbie Volz, Sal Jurado and Ben Calder who have been heavily involved since the development of the “Safe and Sustainable Street Lighting” program from 2016 as well as Steve Nolis and Phillip Hewitt who have moved on from roles at the LGA and Charles Sturt, respectively. Ironbark have been thrilled to be involved and would like to pay a special mention to Ann Gibbons and Fiona Jenkins from Marion and Charles Sturt respectively, who contacted Ironbark in 2015 to see if there were opportunities to work together and start developing business cases and negotiating with SAPN to benefit all councils.