SA's electricity supply and market

In South Australia, both renewable and non-renewable sources are used to generate electricity. The generated electricity is sold through the National Electricity Market (managed by the independent Australian Energy Market Operator) to electricity retailers, who then sell it to households and businesses.

How electricity is distributed

In times of high demand, the Murraylink (Riverland) and Heywood (Limestone Coast) electricity interconnectors can import electricity into South Australia from the eastern states. Find out about managing peak demand.

The electricity is transported from power stations by transmission and distribution networks, where it is then sold to end users by retailers.

This bar graph shows how much electricity is being generated by different fuel types and how much electricity is being used in each state, and updates every few minutes. Hover over the bars for more information. You can view a legend for the graph and the data in a table on the RenewEconomy website.

Generating electricity in SA

Renewable energy

Renewable energy sources in South Australia include wind and solar, through rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

Wind farms in South Australia operate depending on wind conditions and are capable of supplying a significant amount of energy to customers. There is a large battery paired with the Hornsdale wind farm, which provides stability services for the electricity network and can provide back-up power in an emergency.

Generation from rooftop PV systems is dependent on sunlight. More than 200,000 South Australian households have installed rooftop PV. These systems generate electricity for the household's use and any excess electricity generated is sent to the main electricity grid.

Renewables SA supports South Australia’s developing renewable energy industry, by encouraging investment in renewable energy projects in our state and taking advantage of Australian Government funding.

The Clean Energy Council provides a map that shows renewable energy power plants operating in South Australia.

Non-renewable energy

Natural gas-fired generation is the main non-renewable source of energy generated in South Australia. Approximately 60% of natural gas in South Australia is used for electricity generation.

A relatively small amount of the state's electricity supply comes from diesel-fired power stations. These stations are generally smaller stations that operate during peak demand periods. They are also used to service off-grid remote communities.

Transmitting and distributing electricity

When electricity is generated, it needs to be transported to end users.

First, electricity at 132,000 or 275,000 volts travels long distances along high voltage wires to bulk supply substations, where transformers reduce the voltage to 66,000 or 33,000 volts. In South Australia, the high-voltage transmission network and large transmission towers are operated and managed by ElectraNet.

The lower voltage electricity feeds from the bulk supply substations into a transmission system to distribution substations, where the voltage is reduced to 11,000 volts. This electricity is distributed along wires to ground level transformer stations, street pole transformers and pad mount transformers, which reduce the voltage a third time, to supply electricity to homes and businesses (415/240 volts in overhead supply areas or 400/230 volts to large business or underground supply areas). In South Australia, the powerlines, distribution stations and most household electricity meters are owned and operated by SA Power Networks.

Selling electricity to households and businesses

Electricity retailers buy electricity through the National Electricity Market and sell it to customers. Retailers pay regulated charges to the transmission and distribution companies to transport the electricity, which are passed on to you through your electricity bill.

As a customer, you have rights and responsibilities determined by law to help protect you in your dealings with energy retailers and distributors.

You can choose your energy retailer and contract type and can compare the range of energy offers available using the Energy Made Easy price comparison service or by calling 1300 585 165.

What makes up your electricity prices

Your electricity tariff (the amount you pay per kilowatt-hour of electricity used) and daily supply charges are made up of the different costs your retailer pays to provide electricity to your property. These include:

  • wholesale costs
  • network costs
  • retail costs
  • green costs.

Wholesale costs are costs the retailer incurs when purchasing electricity from the NEM. These costs are usually determined through contracts between the electricity generator and the retailer.

Network costs are the costs associated with transmitting and distributing your electricity and are the largest part of your electricity prices. Retailers pay the network service providers (ElectraNet and SA Power Networks) to supply and maintain the infrastructure that makes up the electricity network, eg power poles and wires, that deliver electricity to your property. How much of the network costs can be fairly passed on to you by a retailer is determined every five years by the Australian Energy Regulator, which regulates the wholesale and retail electricity market and networks.

Retail costs are the costs associated with the retailer running their business and include things like the costs of connecting customers, billing customers and managing accounts. These costs differ between businesses, so are determined by individual retailers.

Green costs are the costs associated with the state-based energy efficiency and solar feed-in schemes, and the Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Target. Retailers can only pass on the actual costs associated with these initiatives to you.

Electricity industry regulation

The electricity industry in South Australia is governed by electrical acts, regulations and standards.

The Australian Energy Regulator sets network charges, and monitors and enforces the compliance of energy market participants, energy service providers and the Australian Energy Market Operator with national energy legislation and rules.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia is responsible for electricity entity licensing, setting the standards for network reliability, and regulating solar photovoltaic feed-in pricing for retailers.

Electrical safety and technical regulation in South Australia is the responsibility of the Office of the Technical Regulator.

Related information

On this site

SA's gas supply and market

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Page last updated 9 June 2022

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