Electricity distributors in Victoria are likely to be allowed to continue using an existing accreditation scheme for civil contractors performing underground work on electrical infrastructure for the next 10 years after the national competition regulator said the scheme helped to reduce costs and improve safety.

In a new announcement, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it had issued a draft determination proposing to grant permission for the state’s five electricity distributors – Powercor, CityPower, Jemena, SPI Electricity and United Energy Distribution – to continue to use an industry-wide civil contractor scheme for an extra ten years after a previous five-year period of authorisation expires in May this year.

Previously authorised by the regulator in 2009, the scheme specifies that all Victorian electricity distributors will require contractors to be ‘pre-qualified’ before being allowed to perform maintenance or construction work on their infrastructure.

In order to meet this requirement, contractors will have to have obtained accreditation of their management systems and have one or more of the staff completed an approved training course on electrical infrastructure civil works.

None of the companies will accept tenders from contractors who are not prequalified under this scheme.

Upon releasing its draft decision, ACCC commissioner Jill Walker said the system promotes safety, efficiency and consistency.

Walker said in the absence of the scheme, each of the aforementioned distributors would likely maintain their own separate accreditation schemes and registers, resulting in contractors being required to meet multiple standards and requirements.

“The ACCC considers that the scheme will continue to result in public benefits including reduced transaction and compliance costs, and the improved quality and safety of works,” she said.

The regulator is now seeking comment from interested parties with regard to its draft determination before a final decision is reached.