Regional and remote SA energy customers' input essential in delivering better power supply

COMMENT: SA Customers who are served by Single Wire Earth Return power lines are urged to have their say. Photo: File
COMMENT: SA Customers who are served by Single Wire Earth Return power lines are urged to have their say. Photo: File

Regional South Australians are being called upon to discuss their energy supply as part of an initiative led by SA Power Networks in a bid to improve a 70-year-old service.

A key focus of the action, led by the Customer Consultative Panel (CCP), is hearing from customers who are served by Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) powerlines.

These 19,000 volt power lines serve about 30 per cent of the state, connecting farms and other rural properties to the electricity network.

The panel proposes a mixture of engagement, including online forums, focus groups and a series of community information sessions in regional areas in 2021 to understand regional issues and seek customer insights and feedback.

According to customer and community general manager Jess Vonthethoff, the lines, built in the 1950s, offered a cheap and efficient way to build and deliver power supply into regional communities.

"These SWER lines have served us reasonably well, but by their nature - long single-strand lines traversing hills, valleys, farms and pasture country etc - they are subject to a variety of interruptions...," Ms Vonthethoff explained.

The usual suspects include severe weather and equipment failure, while the length of time to find and fix faults also highlighted as a problem.

We have established a working group to better understand the experiences of the worst served customers in South Australia.

Customer Consultative Panel chair, Dr Andrew Nance

"We are particularly aware that not all SWER-supplied customers are getting the standard of service we believe is acceptable today, with some experiencing many days without power each year," she said.

"We want to talk to them about that and the emergence of new technologies, including Stand Alone Power Systems (SAPS), which may offer an alternative."

CCP chair, Dr Andrew Nance said that while technology has come a long way, customer input was essential before developing proposals to discuss with other stakeholders and regulators that determine network spending.

"We have established a working group to better understand the experiences of the worst served customers in South Australia.

"We want to talk to these customers about being supplied by a SWER line and test the interest in SAPS," Dr Nance said.

Streaky Bay District Council CEO and member of the CCP Karina Ewer said the latest direction will help form future options for supplying remote customers.

"We will take those options to bodies such as the Australian Energy Market Commission, Australian Energy Regulator and Essential Services Commission of SA."

Customers interested in participating should contact Alexandra Lewis on alex.lewis@sapowernetworks.com.au or call 13 12 61.

This story Regional feedback urged on SA's power line supply first appeared on Naracoorte Herald.