Commentary

ECA Energy Foresighting Forum – Overview

Author

Energy Consumers Australia

Foresighting Forum Approach

  1. Presentations from consumers, market bodies and jurisdictions on issues of importance to them.
  2. Working groups in three sessions:

Priority issues and consumer implications.
Issues where a joint approach might be suitable or warranted and how to make it happen.
Top 3-5 topics where research can fill data and information gaps.

 

Overarching themes

  1. The changing nature of energy service provision and the impact of carbon policy on energy.
  2. Consumer incapacity to participate fully in the (existing and) new market.
  3. Protections for consumers when things go wrong and/or they have limited resources are not as effective and efficient as they should be.

Theme 1:

The changing nature of energy service provision and the impact of carbon policy on energy.
How do we manage a smooth transition to a market with distributed generation and storage?
What regulatory obligations need to apply to new participants, including consumer protections, market registration and national consistency.
How should costs of networks and system control services be allocated.

Theme 2:

Consumer incapacity to participate fully in the (existing and) new market.
Some customers can’t access the new market or have barriers to participation.
Lack of resources, location, nature of residential arrangements. (tenants, caravan parks etc)
People with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds struggle to understand market information and make their preferences known (25% of res, 40% of small business)

For consumers who can access the market, market signals do not work so that consumers can act on them.
The market is extremely complex – multiple types of products with inconsistent/unclear consumer protection regimes, price-setting/rule change/etc processes are extremely lengthy.
Consumers’ capacity to influence the nature of their energy services is very limited because of this complexity and this is compounded by the quality of their engagement by industry in planning processes.
Tariffs do not reflect costs, are opaque to key segments of the market, do not send appropriate signals etc.

Theme 3:

Protections for consumers when things go wrong and/or they have limited resources are not as effective and efficient as they should be.
Concessions frameworks are complex, inconsistent across the NEM and not always available only to those who need them most.
Traditional consumer protection mechanisms (eg Ombudsmen) do not apply to increasingly large segments of the market.

Next steps

ECA has published the transcription of the output of the working sessions. This reveals the breadth of themes running through the day.
ECA is shaping three collaborative projects and research needs from the discussion.
These will be shared with the ECA Reference Committee in April. Following discussion with the Reference Committee participants will be sought for the collaborative projects and the Director Research will publish the list of research items of interest.