The WA electricity industry: Who is responsible for what?
Western Australia's electricity industry is complex - and it’s changing as we transition to a more intelligent energy future. To help you understand how electricity is supplied, here’s a breakdown of who does what in the WA electricity industry.
WA’s electricity supply chain
There are three categories of participants in WA’s electricity supply chain:
- Generators – Generators that produce electricity from a variety of renewable and non-renewable sources.
- Distributors – Network businesses, such as Western Power, that transport electricity from generation sites to homes and businesses and who are responsible for building and maintaining the network of poles and wires.
- Retailers – Electricity retailers, such as Synergy, who purchase electricity from generators and supply electricity to homes and businesses.
The role of power generators
Power generators can be either companies or government-owned entities (such as Synergy) and supply electricity to Western Australia’s main electricity grid, the South West Interconnected System (SWIS). Electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, as well as traditional energy sources like coal and gas in the SWIS.
Synergy’s generators use a range of energy sources, with major power stations located in Collie, Kwinana, Cockburn and Pinjar and smaller power stations and renewable generation facilities throughout the SWIS.
Rooftop solar is now a major source of electricity generation in the SWIS. Over one third of homes in the WA now have solar panels which creates many challenges and opportunities in the WA electricity industry.
The role of the distributor
Distributors play an important role in the supply chain. They transport electricity from generation sites to homes and businesses and are responsible for building and maintaining the network of poles and wires, as well as meter reading.
Owned by the State Government, Western Power operates and maintains the electricity network in the SWIS. It is responsible for transporting electricity from the generators to your home or business.
Western Power’s network includes powerlines, substations, control centres and the electricity meter at your property. Western Power provides meter data (such as your electricity meter reading) to retailers such as Synergy, which we use to bill you for the electricity you have used.
The role of electricity retailers
Electricity retailers are the final link in the supply chain. The role of electricity retailers is to buy electricity from generators and sell it to customers. However, Synergy is not the only electricity retailer in Western Australia. Businesses which consume more than 50,000kWh per annum are known as contestable customers and can choose their electricity retailer.
Synergy is WA's largest electricity generator and retailer of electricity with more than one million residential, business and industry customers. We also retail gas to contestable customers in the industrial and commercial gas market.
We can help you with:
- Solutions to help you manage your electricity use
- Connections and disconnections when you move premises
- Advice on our products, such as different types of electricity tariffs
- Paperless bills and account queries
We also offer a range of easy to implement energy efficiency tips to help you find ways to reduce your use at home and work.
Your role in the WA electricity industry
Your role as a consumer of electricity is changing. Previously, you would only pay your retailer for the electricity you used. Now, if you have solar power at your home or business, your role could include electricity generation, and you could be paid for excess energy your system generates that is sent to the power grid.
Outside the SWIS
Horizon Power generates, distributes and sells energy outside of the SWIS to remote and regional areas of WA. Like Western Power and Synergy, Horizon Power is also owned by the WA Government.
Other entities with a role in the electricity industry
Economic Regulation Authority (ERA)
As Western Australia’s independent economic regulator, the ERA licences electricity generators, distributors and retailers, monitors the performance of licensees and the behaviour of generators and participants in the wholesale energy market, and approves the terms and conditions for accessing Western Power’s network (including the prices Western Power can charge for access).
Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)
AEMO has a critical role in ensuring the reliability and security of the electricity system.
AEMO oversees the operations of the Wholesale Energy Market (WEM) and monitors system performance and security, and ensures there is enough generation capacity available to meet demand via the reserve capacity mechanism.
Energy and Water Ombudsman
The Energy and Water Ombudsman provides free, independent dispute resolution services for consumers in WA. The Energy and Water Ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints about electricity, gas and water providers and is responsible for identifying and reporting serious issues to the ERA.
Tomorrow’s electricity industry
The WA electricity industry is evolving over time, especially as we explore new ways of generating and distributing electricity, such as virtual power plants, battery storage and other new technology. Find out the innovative solutions already happening across WA.
A more intelligent energy future has arrived - and we’re here to help you make sense of it.