From the CEO
Though it feels like much longer, it is only six weeks since Australia closed its borders and implemented strict social distancing measures to control the spread of COVID-19. The issues people are now facing have sharpened our focus on the task of being a voice for household and small business energy consumers in a very new and difficult context.
In an incredibly short space of time businesses across the country have quickly adapted or attempted to go into hibernation. Many businesses are uncertain they will survive the crisis or have taken the decision to close their doors permanently. And of course, the economic shock has left hundreds of thousands of people with reduced hours or without a job.
The Federal Government have responded with extraordinary income measures like JobKeeper to help fill the gap. And, in recognising the need to help people meet the costs of the essentials; state and territory governments have increased emergency assistance, frozen energy prices and waived bills for some energy consumers altogether.
Energy companies are also being asked to play their part. In the first instance to keep the power on and the gas flowing, and then to strengthen hardship arrangements to meet the new need. With the Australian Energy Regulator and the Essential Services Commission in Victoria both asking companies to step up, commitments have been made to suspend ordinary disconnection and debt processes, the network businesses have provided assistance to support energy companies and many companies are going to new lengths to get their customers the help they need.
We are now moving into a new phase of the crisis where we will need to make sure we continue to ask the right questions, because we know that more will be needed. Is help reaching the people who need it? Who is falling through the gaps? And longer-term, what is the long-term plan to support people and businesses through winter and into economic recovery?
We also need to come up with answers to future challenging problems. With winter fast approaching, bill shock is just around the corner, especially given rising home energy use due to social isolation policies. This will put a lot more pressure on household and small business budgets at a time when many can least afford it.
We’re looking to energy companies to proactively reach out to customers who might need help with payment deferrals or other options. A unified commitment from the energy industry about how it is supporting consumers through these challenging times remains critical. A clear single message makes sure people know their options and get the help they need.
Finally, as we approach 1 July, we need to keep our eye on energy prices. Retailers in most states will announce their energy price changes and with wholesale prices falling, its critical prices for consumers come down to reflect costs in the supply chain.
On a personal note, I’m looking forward to engaging with you in my new role in the coming weeks and months and please get in touch if you’d like to connect or reconnect.
Stay safe and well,
Chief Executive Officer (Interim)
What We Are Doing
- Hearing from consumers on social media and through Share your story.
- Adapting our research agenda to gather evidence and insights into the experience of consumers weathering health, social and economic shocks from the bushfires to COVID-19.
- Supporting consumer advocacy and research through our Grants Program.
- Engaging with ombudsman services, Financial Counsellors and other organisations on the front-line supporting people and businesses.
- Updating our consumer resources page to help people find the help they need. We are also updating our Power Shift resources to help energy companies, governments and regulators design and deliver measures to empower consumers.
- Being an advocate for consumers in National COVID-19 coordination forums, supporting the Australian Energy Regulator Statement of Expectations, and working with energy companies on their response.
You will be receiving regular updates from our team via this newsletter, keeping you across the latest from us.
- Check out the ‘Latest News’ at the bottom of this email for further important updates and information.
- We have been receiving lots of feedback on social media and through our website, sharing experiences both positive and negative around energy companies and energy bills during this time. If you want to add yours, please do so here.
- You can also join us on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter to be part of the conversation.
Consumer Engagement Report Highlights Network Innovation
We were proud to present the Consumer Engagement Award, which recognises intriguing and innovative approaches by energy companies to support customers, in conjunction with Energy Networks Australia at their Annual Awards night.
A compilation of the entries has now been made into a report which provides insight into projects that are helping deliver a smarter grid to support the energy transformation to benefit consumers.
We see the report as a timely reminder of the value of deep and consistent consumer engagement. Read our joint statement.
- Interim ECA CEO Appointed
- Grants Program Guidance Note: COVID-19
- Energy networks move to support consumers hit hard by health and economic shocks
- 2020 Gill Owen Scholar Announced
Submission to the AER Consultation on the impacts of COVID-19 on the Default Market Offer
We see it as critical that the updated DMO settings help lock in the downward trend in electricity prices and help ease the pressure on households and small businesses. Read our full submission here.
- Submission to the AER Consultation on Reporting on Regulated Network Performance
- Submission to the AER Consultation on the Default Market Offer