The Acts applying to the electricity supply industry are the Electricity Reform Act, the Electricity Networks (Third Party Access) Act (ENTPA) and National Electricity Law (NEL) and Rules (NER) as applied in the Northern Territory. The Commission has responsibilities under the Electricity Reform Act.

From 1 July 2015, a component of the Commission’s responsibilities was allocated to the national energy regulator the Australian Energy Regulatory (AER).  Specifically, responsibility for network price regulation and oversight of network access in accordance with the Electricity Networks (Third Party Access) Act and the Network Access Code was transferred to the AER. The main impact is that the AER is now responsible for undertaking network services determinations.  The AER is working on the next determination with Power and Water Corporation’s (PWC) network business, which is due for completion and implementation by 1 July 2019.

The National Electricity (Northern Territory) (National Uniform Legislation) Act commenced in the Territory on 2 July 2015.

Legislative Reforms

On 1 July 2016, the Territory adopted the National Electricity Rules, with derogations and transitional arrangements as appropriate for the Northern Territory, which was predominantly for Chapter 6 of the NER (Economic Regulation of Distribution Services) and relate to the AER’s role in the Territory. The ENTPA will be superseded by the NER (Northern Territory). Further chapters of the NER were applied from 1 July 2017. The Territory Government’s reform program is expected to seek to apply further sections of the NER as appropriate or relevant for the Territory.

The Industry

The Territory’s transmission and distribution systems are operated by PWC Networks. The network comprises poles, wires, substations, transformers, feeders, switching, monitoring and signalling equipment involved in transporting electricity from generators to customers. PWC’s electrical networks operate at transmission voltages of 132kV and 66kV and distribution reticulation at 22kV and 11kV.

There are three regulated systems, namely:

  • Darwin-Katherine system – the largest system, which supplies Darwin city, Palmerston, suburbs and surrounding areas of Darwin, the township of Katherine and its surrounding rural areas. Katherine is connected with a single 132 kV transmission line.
  • Alice Springs system – PWC networks supplies the township and surrounding rural areas.
  • Tennant Creek system – PWC networks supplies the township of Tennant Creek and surrounding rural areas.

The regulated systems are not connected to the national grid (the National Electricity Market) or each other.

Industry Reforms

The Territory’s electricity industry has undergone a major transformation over the past few years, with the aim of enhancing accountability for performance, achieving greater capital and operational efficiencies, and improving customer outcomes.  In 2014 the major electricity generation and retail operations were separated out from the vertically integrated PWC to form separate, Government owned businesses (Territory Generation (T-Gen) and Jacana Energy (Jacana)). The system control function continues to operate within PWC independently of PWC Networks. Private retailers and generators have also entered the market.


The maximum retail prices for customers with annual electricity consumption less than 750 MWh continue to be set by the Territory Government through an Electricity Pricing Order. The prices set by the Territory Government are below-cost reflective levels, requiring the government to make relatively large community service obligation (CSO) payments (of approximately $80 million per annum) to electricity retailers. 

The Commission’s Role

The Utilities Commission Act 2000 establishes the Commission as an independent statutory body with defined roles and functions for economic regulation in the electricity, water, sewerage and port industries in the Territory.

The regulatory functions of the Commission in the electricity industry include licensing of industry participants, ensuring compliance of the Government’s Electricity Pricing Order, network technical regulation including establishing performance standards for the industry and publication of an annual Power System Review. 


The main licences are: 

  • generation licences, which allow the licence holder to sell electricity into the market
  • retail licences, which allow the licence holder to purchase electricity from Generators and sell to end use customers
  • special licences. The independent Power Producers (IPP) licence allows a licence holder to generate electricity but only sell to an entity that holds a full generator licence. Note that this is a Territory-specific licence
  • network licence allows the licence holder to operate a network (as a monopoly provider).

System Control licence allows the licence holder to operate the power system, which includes ultimate responsibility for matching generation supply and customer demand on a day-to-day basis, by directing generators to generate (or restrict generation) so the power system operates in a safe, reliable and secure manner. The System Controller also currently determines the amount of ancillary services (such as spinning reserve) needed to ensure a secure and reliable system. In the NEM, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) performs similar functions.

System Control also undertakes market operation functions in Darwin-Katherine under its existing System Control licence and the authority given to it under the Electricity Reform Administration Regulations. Current functions of the market operator are within the System Control Technical Code and are limited to undertaking virtual market settlements for the Darwin-Katherine power system.

PWC (System Control), through regulation, has an exemption from requiring a market operation licence for market settlement activities in the Darwin-Katherine power system.

Electricity regulation is divided into five categories: