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SA energy consumers score 'huge win' after court backs regulator

SA energy consumers score 'huge win' after court backs regulator

South Australian electricity consumers have scored a win after the Federal Court sided with the national energy regulator against a tariff appeal by grid owner SA Power Networks.

The decision in the Full Federal Court on Thursday limits the revenues SA Power Networks can collect from customers over the period to 2020 to $3.8 billion, some $700 million less than the company had requested.

Consumers' bills should be lower as a result, said South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, who described the decision as "a huge win for South Australian households and businesses".

"What SAPN was seeking to do was to charge hundreds of millions of dollars more for the use of poles and wires, which would have been added straight to the bill of every South Australian," Mr Koutsantonis said, noting that the distributor's costs represent over 30 per cent of an average annual power bill.

He urged SA Power Networks, owned by Hong Kong's Cheung Kong and Spark Infrastructure, to accept this latest determination and not appeal the matter to the High Court.

The company signalled it would not appeal, with a spokesman saying it had anticipated the court's decision as it reflects decisions already made in other jurisdictions.

"We have moved on from this matter already and will continue to deliver the most cost efficient distribution services in the national grid," Paul Roberts said.

The long-running dispute had ended up in the Australian Competition Tribunal, which backed the Australian Energy Regulator in a ruling last October. The electricity distributor's subsequent appeal to the Full Federal Court has now been dismissed on all grounds.

AER chair Paula Conboy said South Australian consumers will now see the savings from the regulator's original decision in 2015.

She noted that the federal government's scrapping of the Limited Merits Review appeals process last year meant there would be no more cases of this type where a distributor disputes individual elements of a regulator's decision in the competition tribunal.

"We are happy to put this behind us and move forward with our commitment to develop a more collaborative approach to regulation that puts consumers at the heart of all our work," Ms Conboy said.

Financial Review

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