Energy Consumers Australia has published its Annual Report for 2017-18.
The events of 2017-18 have seen the energy sector reach a tipping point – a critical juncture in the history of the National Energy Market. Pressure has been building on the sector to deliver meaningful and substantial change that responds to what consumers are telling us about the current market, and the outcomes they want in the future.
Our Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey has become central to the policy and decision-making landscape of the Australian energy sector because it provides real data from the consumers’ vantage point. The survey has laid out the fundamental problem from the consumer’s point of view – households and small businesses say they are not getting good value for their energy services and after a decade where prices have almost doubled, they lack confidence that the market is working in their interests or will do so in the future.
In fact, consumers say they get much worse outcomes from this market than any other comparable market. This state of affairs does not last long in any sector without commitments being made to change, as we have seen recently in the banking sector.
As we stand on the edge of this tipping point, market participants – particularly the energy companies which deliver outcomes to consumers – have a very big choice to make: do they want to be part of the problem, or will they own the problems and embrace substantial cultural change?
There are also big choices for governments and regulators. The 2017-18 financial year was one of accumulating the evidence. We saw Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel lead a review team that released its Blueprint for the Future just prior to the start of the financial year, and in July 2018 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released the final report of its nearly eighteen-month Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry.
Together, these are easily the most wide-ranging and comprehensive pair of reviews of the National Energy Market ever undertaken and, with that work completed, the focus is now on the response by governments, regulators and energy companies.