// Add the new slick-theme.css if you want the default styling
Energy Consumers Australia logo


Newsletter: April 2024

From the CEO

Have you ever heard of ‘the curse of knowledge’?

No, it’s not a gothic novel. It’s where experts can’t ‘unknow’ their expertise and thus can’t properly respond to – or anticipate the needs of – those without it.

I don’t know any other essential services sector where this form of cognitive bias flourishes as abundantly as it does in energy. Sure, it exists elsewhere but you tend to see active steps to nullify it. Not so much here.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend underwent neurosurgery. While we thoroughly welcomed the surgeon’s expertise(!), it was remarkable to see the steps taken to demystify the process, provide us sufficient goldilocks information (not too much, not too little), and clear guidance on risks and rewards.

It seems to me that important figures in the energy sector may have succumbed to the curse of knowledge. They are too close, too consumed, by the technical detail and have failed a fundamental design principle: start with the consumer and work back. Let me give you an example.

As I mentioned last month, more than a third of consumers can’t understand energy pricing, and thus their bill. In other sectors, this would set off major alarm bells for all manner of reasons. Here, though, everyone seems to just shake their heads and say, “well, energy is complex”. But does it need to be? 

I’m sure that some of you may disagree, but do we really need tariffs that run to 5 decimal points, or bills that disaggregate and itemise every aspect of the supply chain? Is there a discernible advantage in listing out usage charges, network supply charges and network demand charges, to say nothing of environmental certificate cost, carbon neutral offset, market charges and price protection hedging (all of which, by the way, are from my bill)? Does this really achieve anything other than making it almost impossible for people to compare market contracts?

I know some will say transparency is a good thing, but I would argue that this level of detail occludes rather than illuminates.

Some clearly believe that it’s impossible to fix this problem, but I think that is just ‘the curse of knowledge’ speaking. Remember the days of impossibly complex telco contracts? They’re radically simpler and more comparable now. 

So, it can be done but it takes legislators, regulators and industry to agree on who they’re designing for.

Brendan French
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Want to help improve our newsletter? Fill in our short survey to share your views.

Join our newsletter community

Not a member of our newsletter community? Want to stay up to date on the latest news and research on energy issues that impact consumers? Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter today.

Talking to consumers about energy bills

Messaging Insights report

Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) has released a new report exploring the best ways to communicate with energy consumers about bill reduction and energy saving strategies. Based on qualitative research, the report provides in-depth insights about messaging and framing that resonates with different segments of household and small business energy consumers.

bECAuse blog

The report’s findings are discussed in detail in our bECAuse blog, which outlines specific messages to embrace and avoid when speaking with households and small businesses about their energy bills.  

CALD consumers and the transition

Deep Dive insights report

In partnership with Sydney Community Forum (SCF), we conducted a series of workshops with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community members to better understand the barriers they face in participating in the energy transition. Together, we co-designed a series of recommendations, released in a new report, to ensure that CALD community members’ interests and needs are well represented. You can also read our bECAuse blog on the topic.   

Webinar: hear directly from community leaders

“Because of our marginal status…We are rarely asked what we know, what we think, what we’d like to know, and what the solutions are when it comes to energy equity and the transition to net zero. And yet we’re impacted unequally.” – Asha Ramzan, Sydney Community Forum 

Hear directly from CALD community members who took part in the Deep Dive and shared their insights about what they’d like to see in the energy transition.  

Help shape the newsletter

We’re asking our newsletter subscribers (that’s you!) your views on our newsletter – what you want to see, what you want more of, and how to improve our current offering. Fill in our short survey to share your views.

Calling all Victorians: you’re invited

The ECA Board is coming to Melbourne and would love to meet with you and hear your views on major issues facing Victorian energy consumers. You’ll also have the chance to hear from our new Chair, Michael Schaper. We hope you’ll join us for this free, in-person networking event.   

When: 5-7pm, Wednesday 15 May  

Where: T & G Conservatory, Hazel Restaurant, 164 Flinders Lane 

Esperance: transitioning away from gas

Esperance, WA, is the first town in Australia to transition away from piped gas. Their experience can serve as a blueprint for other communities in Australia who are also thinking about making the switch. Watch our two videos to find out more.  

Electrifying Esperance: how it was done

In this video, you can hear from a range of stakeholders about what it took, from a process and community engagement perspective, to transition a whole community away from piped gas. 

Electrifying Esperance: community views

A number of community members share their views and experiences of the transition. 

From the Grants Team

Equipping a new generation of energy advocates

Through our Grants Program, we’ve supported the University of Melbourne to develop and deliver a new course, Foundations of the energy system: a consumer advocacy toolkit. This exciting new course is designed to equip current and emerging advocates to better understand and influence the energy system.  

This is a free course, running from May to October 2024. We encourage you to sign up or share the course with anyone who you think would benefit. 

7 star homes built on outdated data

Homes that are built to meet the current 7-star NaTHERS energy efficiency rating are using outdated climate data. This means a home that appears efficient today would no longer perform well in future, as there has been an underestimation of the cooling required to keep homes a safe temperature in summer. These findings are detailed in a new report produced by Renew and Sweltering Cities, and supported by an ECA Grant.  


Over the past month we have made submissions on several issues, including: 

  • A submission to the Australian Energy Regulator on the draft determination on the Default Market Offer prices 2024-25.
  • A submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission on flexibility in the allocation of interconnector costs.  
  • A submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission on unlocking consumer energy resources benefits through flexible trading.  

For your calendar

Don’t miss out on these upcoming events where you’ll get the chance to here from ECA representatives: 

  • On 29 April, The Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) will be hosting an online forum, The Energy-Health Hardship Nexus Forum. This forum will present a new approach to tackling energy hardship, exploring the role of the health system in putting an end to energy hardship. This event has been funded as part of an ECA Grant to VCOSS.  
  • Our CEO, Brendan French, will be speaking at the Power & Utilities Leadership Summit on 7 May. Use discount code SPEAKER10.  
  • Brendan is also speaking at Australian Energy Week (11-14 June) on Ensuring the energy transition benefits consumers instead of causing suffering. Grab your ticket here and use the code ECA10.  

Comments are closed.