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Commentary

Newsletter: December 2023

From the CEO

Welcome to the final ECA newsletter for 2023. I’ll keep the intro short as you have plenty of other important things to do.

If you’re like me, you’ve just spent another sweaty night wondering how hot this summer might get. I was reminded yesterday that while this is the hottest year in my lifetime, it might yet prove among the coolest of the decades to come. Sorry for the lack of Christmas cheer but all the signs suggest this is probably true. For many Australians, abstract warnings of climate change are fast giving way to a humanly perceptible new reality.

Which brings me to the state of the energy transition. We’ve seen some big developments over the last year, particularly with plans to dramatically increase renewable capacity in the system. These are welcome changes but must now be matched by equivalent focus and investment on the consumer side. As our surveys and research consistently demonstrate, consumers for the most part find themselves trapped in the headlights, knowing massive change is bearing down on them but having little idea what to do about it. Some might say, rather politely, that this is “consumer inertia”; I think many people are simply frozen, either by their lack of knowledge or capacity or both.

So, what do I want for Christmas? Well, I want 2024 to be the turning point, the year historians look back on as the pivot when policy makers finally invited consumers into the ‘transition tent’. I want Australian consumers to be fully recognised – in law, policy, research, and funding – as the fundamental enablers of a new energy economy. One other time in recent history Australian households received just such an invitation and promptly responded by becoming the country’s largest generator – via 3.5 million rooftop solar installations – and the world’s fastest adopter of domestic solar technology. Australians can win the race, but only if they’re invited to the event.

We need more of this kind of policymaking; inspired, collective, empirical – but with a laser-sharp focus on how everyone can benefit from the transition, especially those who might otherwise be left behind.

So, over to you Santa.

Brendan French
Chief Executive Officer


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Foresighting Forum

Don’t miss out on securing an early bird ticket for the Foresighting Forum before prices rise.

At the Forum you’ll have the chance to think practically about the role you can play in delivering an energy system that benefits consumers – and learn from some of the best leaders around Australia (and beyond!) who are already doing this.

When: 14-15 February 2024 

Where: UTS Aerial Centre, Sydney 

Cost: Tickets start from $995.


Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey

Our Energy Consumer Sentiment Survey (ECSS) tracks what consumers are thinking and feeling about our energy system. Our December survey found that consumer confidence in the energy market has dropped to a five-year low and that households are increasingly struggling with rising energy bills. 

The survey also showed a drop in the number of consumers who felt they were getting value: just 54% of households viewed their electricity service as value for money, compared to 59% a year ago and 67% two years ago.

We’ve also done a deep dive and discuss in our latest bECAuse blog what the ECSS results tell us consumers want from the energy transition.


Energy Divide Report

Using the ECSS data, we have published a companion report, Understanding the Energy Divide, which reveals that the number of consumers at risk of being locked out of the energy transition is increasing rapidly.

The report unpacks what the energy divide is, what’s driving it, and who is impacted.

You can also catch up on our bECAuse blog which unpacks how to close the energy divide.


Small Business Energy Tariff Tracker

Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) tracks year-on-year energy prices for Australian small businesses through our SME Retail Tariff Tracker. The results released last week found that annual gas bills for Australian small businesses increased by 12% over the past year, while electricity bills rose 8%.

The tracker also provides state by state breakdowns for energy and gas pricing.   


From the Grants Team

Influence Grants Open

We’re on the search for new and exciting research or advocacy projects that aim to solve some of the pressing problems facing energy consumers.

We fund a wide range of projects, and our Grants Team are happy to discuss any specific ideas you might want to explore prior to applying. Contact them at: grants@energyconsumersaustralia.com.au.

Case Study One: Energy Ready Toolkit

Communities can take steps to make sure they’re not caught off guard if a disaster happens.

The Energy Ready Toolkit helps Australian communities prepare a plan for if the power goes out and ensure they remain energy resilient.

Energy Ready was funded by a Collaboration Grant as part of Energy Consumers Australia’s Grants Program and delivered in partnership with the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, Community Power Agency, and Parallel Lines.

Energy Ready was funded by Energy Consumers Australia’s Grants Program and delivered in partnership with the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, Community Power Agency and Parallel Lines.

Case Study Two: Renovations Pathways Report

The energy performance of most Australian homes needs upgrading to bring down power bills, help Australia reach net zero, and deliver better health outcomes. However, consumers will require support to navigate the scale and breadth of changes being asked of them.

The ClimateWorks Renovation Pathways report identifies how this ‘renovation wave’ can be achieved and the savings available to households that become more energy efficient.

With others, we’re pleased to partner with ClimateWorks on this important research through an ECA Collaboration Grant.

Case Study Three: Consumer Energy Resources Map

There is a growing appetite among agricultural producers, businesses, and regional councils to adopt consumer energy resources (CER).

Queensland Farmers’​ Federation has developed an interactive map to demonstrate this interest in Queensland so that CER can be properly integrated into planning for regional grids.

ECA was proud to support this research through an Influence Grant.


Submissions

We hear many stories of energy consumers who’ve experienced poor outcomes when they try to upgrade their homes or install consumer energy resources.

Along with 16 other consumer organisations, we signed on to Consumer Policy Research Centre’s submission calling for consumers to be better protected from unfair trade practices.


Privacy Update

We’ve updated our privacy policy to provide you with more transparency and greater control over your personal information. You can view our updated Privacy Policy and Collection Statement on our website.


Board Communique

In October, our Board met and approved grants for University of Melbourne, Rewiring Australia, COSBOA and UTS ISF. 

Our Board met in Adelaide in November to meet with South Australian stakeholders, conduct our Annual General Meeting, and discuss governance matters.


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