Around 3,400 customers in 13 remote townships and 15 remote Aboriginal Communities are provided with electricity under the Remote Area Energy Supply (RAES) scheme.
The South Australian government owns the electricity infrastructure that supplies 10 remote towns and 15 Aboriginal Communities across Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, Yalata and Oak Valley:
- Manna Hill
- Pipalyatjara, also servicing Kalka (APY Lands)
- Murputja, also servicing Kanpi and Nyapari (APY Lands)
- Yalata (ALT)
- Oak Valley (MT).
The Central Power House at Umuwa (APY Lands) also supplies:
- Iwantja (Indulkana)
- Kaltjiti (Fregon)
- Pukatja (Ernabella)
- homelands connected to the Central Power House grid, including Yunyarinyi and Watinuma.
Independent owner-operators supply electricity to customers in:
- Coober Pedy
View the RAES townships and communities in a larger map.
Each independent owner-operator holds generation, distribution and retail licenses issued by ESCOSA. The state government subsidises costs for independent operators to make service delivery viable.
The South Australian government subsidises the cost of electricity for communities supplied under the RAES scheme. Tariffs are set based on the following principles:
- domestic customer tariffs are based on the average domestic market offers by electricity retailers supplying to the South Australian on-grid market
- general supply customer tariffs are based on the average small business market offers by electricity retailers supplying to the South Australian on-grid market
- state and federal government customers pay the full cost of their electricity supply and consumption
- post-pay customers pay a fixed supply charge, which is aligned with on-grid supply charge.
Similar to on-grid customers, charges may also apply for extra services, such as arranging a new connection or requesting final meter readings.
- January 2023 tariffs and customer advice - RAES tariffs, charges and public lighting fees (PDF, 152.5 KB)
- February 2024 updated tariffs and customer advice - RAES tariffs, charges and public lighting fees (PDF, 197.3 KB)
New applications to connect to the RAES electrical infrastructure may attract a generation levy, depending on the connection capacity in kilovolt amp (kVA) being requested.
The generation levy reflects the cost of providing additional infrastructure to supply the electricity. The calculation is:
- Generation levy = $1,760 (including GST) x each kVA of connection exceeding 10 kVA.
There is one 10 kVA allowance per applicant (agency) per community per calendar year.
- January 2023 generation levy fact sheet (PDF, 210.8 KB)
- February 2024 generation levy fact sheet (PDF, 210.6 KB)
The 2019–20 Budget provided $5.6 million over five years to implement a package of measures aimed at improving service delivery and realising operational efficiencies across the entire RAES scheme.
The 3-stage process to ensure the future sustainability of the RAES scheme incorporates:
- The installation of Smart Meters to improve energy efficiency and service delivery
- The introduction of more flexible payment options, including the development of a customer pre-payment framework, to reduce the level of customer indebtedness
- The staged introduction of electricity charging for residents in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, Oak Valley and Yalata
Installation of smart meters
The installation of smart meters for customers in townships within the RAES scheme commenced in July 2020. Meter installations for Aboriginal Communities commenced in the first half of 2021, in conjunction with an education package. Smart metering enables a range of flexible payment options, including pre‑payment, which assists customers to manage their electricity bills and consumption. These were developed in consultation with the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA), to ensure consistency with its regulatory and licencing requirements.
Introduction of tariffs
Tariffs for residential customers in community housing in the APY lands, Oak Valley and Yalata were phased in from July 2022, starting at a low level to provide time to adjust to the changes. MoneyMob Talkabout, a specialist non-government organisation with experience in delivering similar programs in remote Aboriginal communities, developed and implemented a community education and engagement program.
The program considered the welfare impacts on the affected communities and engaged local Aboriginal community members to act as Energy Education Workers, to assist residents in understanding the new payment system and manage their electricity consumption during the staged introduction of charging.
The Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, along with other State and Federal Departments with a presence on Aboriginal Lands, were consulted in the development of the program and throughout its delivery. All communities in the APY Lands, Oak Valley and Yalata, were also consulted throughout the program, along with other key stakeholders such as social services groups.
For more information
Five sites on the RAES scheme operate a hybrid power generation system using renewable generation options, e.g. solar, wind or batteries, to provide clean, renewable electricity to the local community. At these stations, diesel generation is only used when renewable generation is not available or not supplying enough electricity to meet demand.
Other RAES sites are being evaluated for the cost-effectiveness of implementing renewable energy solutions, with $6.1 million allocated in 2023-24 for further integration of renewable technology and upgrade/replacement of generation and distribution infrastructure within the RAES scheme.
Central Power House
The Central Power House (CPH) in Umuwa, which services the Communities of Umuwa, Pukatja, Yunyarinyi, Amata, Watinuma, Mimili, Kaltjiti and Iwantja (and surrounding homelands), includes:
- 2.9 megawatt (MW) of solar generation capacity
- 1.1 megawatt hour (MWh) of battery energy storage system
The $9.8 million upgrade was commissioned in April 2023 and will provide around 30% renewable energy to the communities on the CPH Network, replacing around 700,000 litres of diesel per year.
The Manna Hill power station includes:
- 64 kilowatts (kW) of solar generation capacity
- 170 kilowatt hours (kWh) of battery energy storage system
The $0.3 million integration of solar generation and hybrid controls at Manna Hill, to complement the existing battery storage system, will reduce the townships reliance on diesel as its sole generation source.
The Parachilna power station includes:
- 21 kW of solar generation capacity
The solar array, commissioned in 2002, generates approximately 12% of the energy used at Parachilna and saves approximately 32 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
A renewable energy and battery storage plant in Coober Pedy includes:
- 1 MW of solar generation capacity
- 4 MW of wind generation capacity
- 1 MW / 250 kWh of battery storage
The plant was commissioned in mid-2017 and provides a minimum of 70% renewable energy to the town.
The Oak Valley power station includes 18 kW of solar panels.
The South Australian Government does not allow connection of customer solar PV systems in RAES micro grid locations without prior written approval from the Department for Energy and Mining.
Due to the relatively small scale of RAES micro-grids, distributed solar PV systems can potentially lead to both technical and financial risks for the RAES distribution and generation assets. Consequently, any potential installations must be properly assessed for their impact on the micro-grid and there are a number of general limitations placed on customer PV connection to protect the local RAES system:
- customer generated electricity cannot be permitted to feed back in to the RAES grids, and as such no feed in tariffs or offsets will be available to customers.
- consistent with the SA Power Networks Technical Standard (TS129), customers are permitted a maximum total system capacity of
- 10kW for single phase connections
- 5 kW is allowed on a single phase SWER line
- 10 kW per phase on standard three phase distribution lines, 30kW total.
- There is no allowance for system capacities above these limits regardless of switching arrangements of additional systems behind the meter
- It is a requirement on the smaller RAES grids, and a recommendation across all RAES sites, that grid connected customer PV systems incorporate a battery that enables a system ramp-down period of 720 seconds and a system ramp-up period of 360 seconds.
RAES Solar PV enquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.
RAES customers may choose to completely disconnect from the RAES grid and install a stand-alone energy system to supply their home or business. Customers wishing to disconnect from the RAES grid can obtain the necessary form from this website, or www.cowellelectric.com.au
- A fact sheet is available detailing connecting customer-owned solar PV systems to the RAES grid (PDF, 102.6 KB)
If you require life support equipment for a you or a person residing at your home, contact Cowell Electric.
The Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) outlines the obligations for electricity distributors and retailers for Life Support customers when issuing licences.
As an Electricity Distribution and Retail licence holder, Cowell Electric has an obligation maintain a register of Life Support customers and provide them with appropriate notice for any planned electricity outages. You can find more detail of this in the Cowell Electric Life Support Policy (PDF, 221.7 KB)
Life Support customers should have a plan of action ready for planned outages and unplanned outages, which can be common in off-grid systems. Cowell Electric Life Support and preparing for outages (PDF, 74.8 KB) has been developed to ensure you are prepared for such occasions.
Under ESCOSA’s licencing conditions, you may be considered to be a Life Support customer if you utilise the following:
- an oxygen concentrator, or
- an intermittent peritoneal dialysis machine, or
- a chronic positive airways pressure respirator, or
- medically required heating or cooling (a prescribed customer must be eligible for the medical heating and cooling concession to be a life support customer under this definition), or
- a nebuliser, or
- a kidney dialysis machine, or
- a ventilator for life support, or
- other equipment as notified by the Commission from time to time.
The Retailer must disable the self-disconnection feature of the prepayment meter system at the supply address of a person requiring a life support system.
For Community Prepayment Customers, Power and keeping healthy (PDF, 1.1 MB) has been developed to assist in registering as a life support customer.
How to apply
- Confirm your eligibility
Check with your medical practitioner to confirm that you or someone living with you has a medical condition that requires any of the life support equipment listed above.
- Complete the application form
- Contact your medical practitioner
Your medical practitioner will need to complete, sign and stamp the medical practitioner details and medical condition confirmation sections on the Life Support Register form.
- Register with Cowell Electric
Send your completed form to Cowell Electric.
Maintaining your registration status
The Life Support Customer register is reviewed annually by Cowell Electric to ensure all details are correct.
There are a number of concessions available to those with medical conditions on a fixed income. Customers should be made aware of these concessions when registering their needs with the Retailer. Such concessions include: