Learn Introduction to Utilities

Introduction to Electricity

Electricity is supplied through a complex system of four main parts – generation, transmission, distribution and retail.

 

Generation

Electricity is generated in South Australia by a variety of power stations of varying capacities. Energy is sourced largely from gas, wind and also solar, with smaller inputs from diesel, landfill gas, sewerage gas, and a mini hydro plant – a number of small generation plants are used solely by the businesses that own them. Solar photovoltaic systems on homes and businesses make a significant contribution, and commercial solar plants are in the pipeline. South Australia can also draw on electricity generated in other states and imported via interconnectors, and export excess electricity in times of surplus.

Transmission

The transmission network transports electricity over long distances at high voltage. The South Australian transmission network is owned and operated by ElectraNet.

Distribution

The distribution network brings electricity over shorter distances, from the transmission network to the end user. In South Australia, apart from some remote areas, the distribution network is owned and operated by SA Power Networks.

Retail

Households and businesses usually come into contact with the electricity system via electricity retailers. Retailers purchase wholesale electricity from generation companies (or own their own generation capacity – called “gentailers”), and sell it to households and businesses. Retailers send out the bills and collect the money from customers, and allocate the portions that we pay for generation (40%), transmission (9%), distribution (33%), retail (9%), and environmental/system security schemes (9%).

The number of electricity retailers operating in South Australia changes from time to time, as retailers enter and exit the market or merge with other companies. In 2018, there are between 15 and 20 retailers for households to choose between – see our page How to choose an energy plan or the government comparative website energymadeeasy.gov.au for more information about choosing a retailer.