15 November 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional energy infrastructure and resourcing.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: As a result of the storms that swept across South Australia over the weekend, a number of regional communities are still without power, I understand, in the Riverland, Yorke Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Mid North. On 28 October this year, the Secretary of SA Unions, Mr Dale Beasley, wrote an open letter to the Premier, Mr Peter Malinauskas, that called for the reversal of privatisation of electricity, stating:
Clearly it is not in the best interests of South Australians that the natural monopoly of public electricity supply is run by private corporations to create huge profits. This model has seen under-investment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure.
My question to the minister therefore is:
1. Does the minister believe that there has been sufficient investment in energy infrastructure and resourcing in the regions?
2. Would the minister support reviving ETSA to ensure that our electricity network meets the needs of our communities, particularly those living in regional South Australia?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. Of course, electricity services in regional areas are incredibly important and, in the general sense, are part of the need for regional development. However, in terms of the specifics, I will refer the question to my colleague in the other place the Minister for Energy and Mining.
Reply Received 7 February 2023:
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Energy and Mining has advised:
1. SA Power Networks advises that it spend approximately $300 million per annum in capital and operating costs on maintaining and upgrading the electricity network across all of SA—much of this expenditure is made in regional and remote areas of South Australia.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) determines both the operational expenditure and capital expenditure allowances for SA Power Networks for each five year regulatory period. The AER's expenditure assessment criteria require that SA Power Networks is awarded efficient levels of expenditure to maintain ongoing levels of safety and reliability of the electricity network.
Maintenance and operational costs can be higher per customer in rural and regional areas when compared to those in the metropolitan area however customers in these regional areas are protected by a 'postage stamp' approach to the network portion of their electricity bill.
The power outages following the recent storm were widely caused by falling trees, tree limbs and lightning strikes to powerlines and stobie poles, many startling images of this damage have been circulated in the media.
2. The Australian Labor Party opposed the privatisation of ETSA and during its periods in government has had to fix the mess that privatisation caused.
Privatisation did not only affect regional residents of South Australia. All residents and businesses are paying the price of that foolhardy decision.