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Newsletter: April 2021

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From the CEO

Dear Readers,

The most significant event this month in the energy space was the release of the Energy Security Board’s (ESB) Post 2025 Market Design Options Paper. We were involved (along with several other advocates) in contributing to the ESB’s process, framing issues from the consumer perspective and pushing for a system design that recognises consumer-owned distributed energy resources.

We see many positive opportunities outlined in the paper, including solid steps towards delivering energy security for all Australians. However, we feel there is a lack of a practical pathway to a distributed energy future in which consumers are active participants, energy resources are more distributed, and demand-side and community generation initiatives are commonplace. You can read my full initial analysis on the Options Paper here. We are now drafting our submission in response to the Options Paper ahead of recommendations to Ministers in mid-2021.

I also wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald with my analysis on the paper and the missing link of consumers being part of the process which you can read here.


Prices are falling but more can be done

The other major talking point during April was news that electricity bills are finally dropping for households and small businesses after a prolonged period of rising prices. Data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) shows average quarterly wholesale electricity prices at their lowest since 2012. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that measures implemented by Energy Ministers had resulted in a 9% fall in energy prices since the middle of last year. This was soon followed by the release of this year’s Default Market Offer price by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which said that savings of $65 million would flow to consumers who are on a standing offer contract across New South Wales, South-East Queensland and South Australia from July 1 2021.

It’s important to note that while the Default Market Offer protects consumers from paying excessive prices, it is usually not the best available offer. Click here for my thoughts on the announcement and how consumers can capitalise on these savings. (Our PowerCall resource is a good place to start).

It will be interesting to see the results of our bi-annual Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey and whether consumers are noticing price falls and the subsequent media reporting of them.


Avoiding hardship and the energy divide

While prices falling are something to be celebrated, the recent Victorian Energy Market Report reflects that despite economic conditions appearing to be improving, the number of customers unable to meet their bills continues to rise. What also concerns us is those who fall into the ‘silent hardship’ category, who may be meeting their bill payments but at the expense of their comfort and safety. We attended a seminar hosted by the RMIT University on this important topic during April and shared the research from our Power Shift project. Power Shift is a publicly available body of research intended to provide energy companies, government and regulators with evidence on which to build better targeted and more effective energy management services and programs that deliver outcomes for consumers. We are very concerned with and will continue to address the growing ‘energy divide’, ensuring vulnerable consumers do not fall through the cracks during the energy transition and beyond.


Supporting energy advocates

Our first Grants Program round of applications, which was run through our new online SmartyGrants system, closed on 29 April 2021. We would welcome any feedback from those applicants on their experience using the platform here. The energy system transition is underway and we want to continue to support and empower individuals and organisations who are working to ensure that the needs of all energy consumers are understood and responded to as the market evolves. As part of this we are undertaking a review of our Grants Program and are currently consulting with stakeholders to ensure the changes that are made make it more fit-for-purpose.


Our research partnership

The Digital Energy Futures project, is led by Monash University and we are a partner along with Ausgrid and AusNet Services. The Digital Energy Futures is a world first project that is striving to understand and forecast changing digital lifestyle trends and their impact on future household electricity demand. This improved forecasting will be used to better inform the Australian energy sector to help meet the needs and expectations of Australian households as we step into the future. Learn more about the project here.


Recognising consumer engagement

This month Energy Networks Australia (ENA) released the 2020 Consumer Engagement Report which compiles applications from the annual ENA and Energy Consumers Australia Consumer Engagement Awards.

We are proud to co-present the Consumer Engagement Award which recognises an Australian energy network business that demonstrates outstanding leadership in consumer engagement. There can only be one winner, but in 2020 it was very evident to the Judging Panel that supports the award that consumer engagement is now becoming embedded into a range of network business activities, which can only improve outcomes for consumers. Read the full report here.


Employment opportunities

Last but not least, we have just closed applications for our recruitment for four people to join our policy team and we welcome a new Grants Manager who will start in late May. We will shortly be recruiting for a new Director, Energy System Transitions, so if you are interested in shaping the energy future from the perspective of what consumers value and need, we want to hear from you. Keep an eye on our channels or email us here for more information.

As we look ahead, we are excited to be in the planning stages for our Foresighting Forum, the Digital Series which will be taking place in the second half of the year. More on that to come…

Thank you for reading, we welcome your feedback as always here.

Lynne Gallagher
Chief Executive Officer

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News

A positive step towards delivering energy security for all Australians

A positive step towards delivering energy security for all Australians

Read Lynne Gallagher’s thoughts on the Post 2025 Market Design Options Paper here.

Digital Energy Futures helping to better understand emerging energy technology trends

Digital Energy Futures project helping us to better understand emerging energy technology trends

Learn more about how this project is helping to forecast our energy future and watch our video here.

Prices continue to fall but even more savings are available for consumers

Prices continue to fall but even more savings are available for consumers

Click here to find out how to save even more on energy bills.

Power price relief welcome but downward trend must continue

Power price relief welcome but downward trend must continue

Learn why we think falls in prices are welcome, but more still needs to be done here.


In the media

There’s a key element missing from the debate about Australia’s journey to net-zero emissions

Lynne Gallagher wrote a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald outlining her views on the ESB Post 2025 Market Design Options Paper. Read it here.

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