In Australia, the electrical distribution network has been subject to privatisation over the past decade.

Although different segments of the electrical distribution network are still to be separated from individual state government ownership within some states of Australia, Victoria has embraced full privatisation in a manner that has removed government ownership from all parts of the electrical distribution network.

This review is of the Victorian market, which is the direction being modelled for the Australian operation, with maybe minor changes. The electrical distribution network in Victoria is defined as:

  • Generation companies, including coal and gas-fired power stations, hydro schemes and wind farms.
  • Transmission companies, i.e. any lines above 66 kV.
  • Distribution companies, supplying and maintaining the poles and wires up to 66 kV.
  • Retailers.

Throughout these processes there are different levels of metering that are required to be incorporated to ensure that each entity is remunerated for the service provided. Additional to this is the government oversight of this process, and this falls within different regulatory control, dependent upon the issues at hand.

The economic regulatory issues and criteria are addressed by the Essential Services Commission, including the issuing of licences for generation, transmission and retailers. As the electrical retailer market was deemed contestable as of January 2001, the metering services are also privatised, with many companies specialising in the provision of this service. The Essential Services Commission sets the mode of operation and reviews the pricing tariffs and structures of the various elements of this market segment.

The Essential Services Commission has now introduced the requirement for interval metering in the Electricity Customer Metering Code and has decided on a phased introduction over the coming years. The planned introduction began on 1 January 2006, but the programmed replacement of the existing metering is yet to commence in many areas.

However, the distribution companies are preparing for the additional work load. In conclusion, there is much work required and the privatisation of the electrical distribution network has brought many benefits to the customer, including allowing for choice of retailer and a tariff that can achieve some energy savings based on consumption patterns.