National Electricity Market

National Electricity Market

The National Electricity Market (NEM) is the name of the Australian wholesale electricity market and the associated synchronous electricity transmission grid.

The NEM began operation on 13 December 1998, and operations are currently based in five interconnected regions - Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. Tasmania was the last state to join the NEM as the sixth region in May 2005 and became fully operational on 29 April 2006 when the Basslink interconnector was fully activated.

The Snowy region was abolished on 1 July 2008 and the components split between New South Wales and Victoria. The Australian Capital Territory is included in the NSW region of the NEM.

The NEM operates one of the world’s longest interconnected power systems between Port Douglas, Queensland and Port Lincoln, South Australia with an end-to-end distance of more than 4000 kilometres. Over A$11 billion of electricity is traded annually in the NEM to meet the demand of almost eight million end-use consumers.[1]


Operation of the NEM Physical Market

Exchange between electricity producers and electricity consumers is facilitated through a spot market where the output from all generators is aggregated and instantaneously scheduled to meet demand through a centrally-coordinated dispatch process. This process is operated by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in accordance with the provisions of Australian National Electricity Law and Australian National Electricity Rules.

Scheduled generators submit offers every five minutes of every day. From all offers submitted, AEMO’s systems determine the generators required to produce electricity based on the principle of meeting prevailing demand in the most cost-efficient way (see also Economic dispatch). AEMO then dispatches these generators into production.

A dispatch price is determined every five minutes, and six dispatch prices are averaged every half-hour to determine the spot price for each trading interval for each of the regions of the NEM. AEMO uses the spot price as the basis for the settlement of financial transactions for all energy traded in the NEM.

The Rules set a maximum spot price of $12,500 per megawatt hour. The maximum price was increased from $10,000 per megawatt hour on 1 July 2010. This is the maximum price at which generators can bid into the market. The maximum spot price - which was previously called the Value of lost load (VoLL) - is the price automatically triggered when AEMO directs network service providers to interrupt customer supply in order to keep supply and demand in the system in balance.

System Reliability

NEM Reliability standards are established by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) Reliability Panel. These standards currently require that unserved energy per year for each region must not exceed 0.002 percent of the total energy consumed in that region that year.

The NEM is required to operate with defined levels of reserve in order to meet the required standard of supply reliability. Under current standards, AEMO is required to ensure 850 megawatts of reserve is carried across the entire NEM.

The reliability safety net provisions of the National Electricity Rules provide that AEMO must procure sufficient reserve to ensure that the reliability of supply meets the reliability standard. When reserves acquired by AEMO are dispatched they are bid in at VoLL thus setting the spot price at the maximum level.

Financial Markets

In addition to physical spot trading through the NEM, there is a separate financial trading market for electricity.

Prices in the spot market are highly volatile and the spot price can spike to several hundred times the average price for short periods. Therefore buyers and sellers wish to lock in energy prices through financial hedging contracts. Under a “contract for differences” the purchaser (typically an electricity retailer) agrees to purchase a specified physical quantity of energy from the spot market at a set price (the “strike price”). If the actual price paid in the spot market by the purchaser is higher than the strike price, the counterparty to the contract (typically an electricity generator or a financial institution) pays the purchaser the difference in cost. Conversely, if the price paid is lower than the strike price, the purchaser pays the counterparty the difference.

There are numerous variations on the standard hedging contact available in the market, often containing complicated financial arrangements, for example one way option contracts, cap and collar contracts.

Hedging contracts are financial instruments. The financial market in electricity is conducted through over-the-counter trading and through exchange trading through the Sydney Futures Exchange (see Exchange-traded derivative contract).

The Sydney Futures Exchange lists eight standardised futures products based on Base Load and Peak-Period energy bought and sold over a calendar quarter in the NEM in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.[2]


The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is currently responsible for determining rules and policy advice covering the NEM. Up-to-date editions of the Australian National Electricity Rules can generally be found on the AEMC's website.


The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is responsible for rule enforcement for the NEM as well as economic regulation of transmission networks.


The reforms are widely considered as having delivered considerable economic benefits. A government review (December 2006) stated that the reforms have underpinned significant levels of investment in energy supply (approximately $7 billion in electricity generation and $4.4 billion in electricity transmission), improved productivity (particularly capital utilisation) and delivered internationally competitive electricity prices for Australian industry and households.[3] In terms of the climate change impacts of the reforms, experts have concluded that the outcome is increased emissions with respect to business as usual scenarios. This is due to the lower cost of coal fired generation compared to other generators, reduced emphasis on energy efficiency from lower prices, the failure to price greenhouse emissions, combined with market design and regulation that favours incumbents.[4]

See also

External links


  1. ^ An Introduction to Australia's National Electricity Market
  2. ^ Sydney Futures Exchange
  3. ^ Electricity Implementation Reform Group
  4. ^ Iain MacGill, CEEM, UNSW powerpoint presentation 2007

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