The Utilities Commission is an independent statutory body established by the Utilities Commission Act and is responsible for administering the licensing of the electricity supply industry in the Northern Territory under the Electricity Reform Act.

An electricity licensing fact sheet is provided below, which provides potential licensees with guidance. The fact sheet is based on the current legislative framework and should be used in conjunction with the relevant legislation.

An electricity licensing application checklist, attachment list and declaration is provided below and should be completed as part of any licence application.

When a licence is required

A licence is required for any of the following operations in the electricity supply industry:

  • generation of electricity
  • owning or operating an electricity network
  • selling electricity
  • system control over a power system
  • other operations for which a licence is required by the regulations.

Types of licence

Generation

Allows the licensee to generate electricity that can then be sold to either a licensed generator or retailer. A licence does not guarantee dispatch, rather this is determined by the System Controller. Battery technology is considered generation for the purposes of licensing.

There is also a special generation licence (Independent Power Producer) that allows the licensee to generate electricity that can only be sold under contract to a licensed generator. This licence has fewer obligations than a standard generation licence as the purchasing generator takes on this responsibility.

Retail

Allows the licensee to trade in electricity, and also sell and retail electricity to customers located within a specified retail area.

Network

Allows the licensee to own or operate an electricity network within a geographic area, and connect the network to another electricity network.

Isolated system

Allows the licensee to generate and retail electricity, and also own and operate a network. This licence is intended for systems with no (or unlikely) interaction with another licensed entity.

System Control

Allows the licensee to exercise system control over the relevant power system by providing the functions of monitoring and controlling to ensure the system operates reliably, safely and efficiently.

Exemptions

There are several statutory exemptions from the requirement to be licensed under the Electricity Reform (Administration) Regulations of which applicants should be aware.

The commission may, with the approval of the minister, grant an exemption from licensing or specified provisions of licensing. The commission will consider an exemption as part of the licence application process. Exemptions are limited and only considered where there is significant justification, and are assessed on an individual basis.

An exemption exists for the generation of electricity from a small renewable source (less than 2 MW), primarily for own use and subsequent sale of any excess into the distribution network. Further details can be found at Electricity Reform Act 2000, Section 87 Exemption Document: Small scale renewable energy operations.

Potential participants in the electricity supply industry should seek their own legal advice as to whether an exemption may be applicable to their circumstances.

Licence fees

Licence application fees and annual licence fees are fixed from time to time by the Regulatory Minister in accordance with the Electricity Reform Act.

Application process

An application will follow the described process in the Electricity licensing fact sheet, noting that the process can take up to six months providing no issues arise. The applicant is encouraged to contact the commission at an early stage to understand any information requirements that may be relevant to the application. The licence application checklist should be followed to ensure completeness.

Should a licence not be executed immediately after an approval, the applicant is required to report to the commission every 12 months from the date of the approval on the continuing requirement of the licence until either the licence is executed or three years has lapsed, at which point the approval will cease. 

If relevant to the proposed operation, an Access Agreement with the appropriate entity should be sought in parallel with the licence application. The legal identity of the licence applicant is required to match that of the Access Agreement.

Assessment

In assessing a licence application the commission will have regard to the commission’s strategic statement, which is "the Utilities Commission seeks to protect the long term interests of consumers of services provided by regulated industries with respect to price, reliability and quality".

The commission will consider the application against the relevant licensing provisions of the Electricity Reform Act and will have regard to general factors such as whether:

  • the applicant is a suitable person
  • the proposed operation will have the necessary characteristics in order to not have a detrimental effect on the system regarding security, reliability and safety
  • the applicant is financially stable.

A licence is subject to conditions, with a number of the conditions able to be included or excluded where the commission deems appropriate. This will be considered on an individual basis. An applicant should familiarise themselves with the standard conditions.  

Consultation

The commission in accordance with good regulatory practice will undertake a public consultation as part of its assessment. The commission may seek advice from stakeholders and suitably qualified consultants where it is deemed necessary. The commission will not share information of a confidential or commercially sensitive nature. 

Licence and exemption register

As required by the Electricity Reform Act, the commission maintains a register of licences issued to electricity entities. A register of exemptions granted under section 87(1) of the Electricity Reform Act, is also maintained. Hard copies of these registers are kept at the commission’s office and are available for public inspection. Copies of major licences and exemptions can be viewed below.