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Newsletter: October 2023


Energy Consumers Australia

From the CEO

When a friend of mine found out I recently started as ECA’s new CEO, she told me I would inevitably fail because everyone involved in energy “had already dug their trenches” and would never compromise, let alone agree, on the things that mattered. I replied that she’d never make it as a cheerleader and left it at that.  But against my will, the idea has returned to me several times since. What if – despite the gazillions of dollars we’ll all spend (through bills, taxes, retrofits etc) – we are unable to meet the challenge because we just can’t work together?

For what it’s worth, and with a whole month of experience under my belt, let me nail my colours to the mast.

I am either an idealistic realist or a realistic idealist. Either way, I believe the one thing that has consistently characterised humans throughout time is our ability to problem solve collectively. At some point (I’d love to know when) we began to realise that there is some kind of magic that happens when we bring diverse minds to bear on tricky problems. Somehow our differences start to coalesce around a collective good; we begin to see a future painted with a broader – and thus more complementary – palette than just our own.

We have faced genuinely civilisation-threatening challenges before and I believe we will do so now. I also believe, very firmly, that when push comes to shove we will prevail through commonsense and a recognition that we are all consumers first and foremost. None of us is operating in a vacuum; indeed, we are all operating on ourselves and those we love.

Ah, but when does the push come to the shove, and who gives it?

There are people reading this (in fact most of you) who will have a far better technical answer to this question than I could give. Some will identify the moment through an economic lens, or an engineering one, or a political one, or a scientific one. For me, I simply feel it through the pores of my skin – literally and figuratively.  Somehow there has been a discernible shift from “if/whether” to “how/when” and – increasingly – “act now!”.

Which brings me back to collective problem solving. Broadly-speaking, the table is set and the chairs distributed among the major movers and shakers for the decarbonisation/decentralisation transition. The agenda is (more or less) drafted. The question for me is: what is each of us going to carry into the discussion? With the crunch time upon us, are we genuinely prepared to start the next phase of this conversation with a promise to each other that consumers and communities are the true alpha and omega? After all, the energy system exists for one purpose alone, so far as I can tell: to encourage easier, fairer, more – ahem – illuminated lives.

And so to my call to action. For those with a seat at this table, take 10 minutes and ask yourselves a few simple, first principles questions. Is every decision I take one that history will record as being in the collective, community good? How informed am I of the real-life human impacts, particularly on those who are already overburdened?  

Energy can clearly be a powerfully democratising force but it can also entrench division and inequity. Which brings me back to my friend’s view on trenches and their place in this discussion. And that is: none.

Let’s talk next month.

Until then, warm regards,

Brendan French
Chief Executive Officer

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Foresighting Forum

Our Foresighting Forum is an energy conference like no other. You’ll be prompted to think, speak, act, and dream like a consumer. And you’ll be challenged to consider what role you can play in delivering an energy system that benefits everyone so that no one is left behind. 

Over two days, attendees will consider what is being asked of consumers, where the opportunities lie to overcome barriers and improve consumers’ journeys to going all-electric, and how organisations can work together to help households and small businesses realise the benefits of the energy transition. Registrations for Foresighting Forum 2024 are now open! 

When: 14-15 February 2024 

Where: UTS Aerial Centre, Sydney 

Cost: Tickets start from $995. Register before 20 December to secure early bird pricing.  

We also have a limited number of sponsorship opportunities for your organisation to support this event. Reach out to us talk about how your organisation can get involved.  

Energy Consumer Behaviour Survey

This week we released the results of our Energy Consumer Behaviour Survey (ECBS) – an annual survey into the attitudes and activities of residential and small business energy consumers. It explores how they use power, their attitudes to new technology, and how they see the future of energy for themselves and their communities. 

The ECBS is a rich mine of data for anyone working in energy in Australia. For example, with record heat predicted for this summer, the ECBS reveals that 42% of households would be willing to reduce their energy use during a very hot period, even without financial incentives.  

Stakeholder Event Adelaide

Are you based in Adelaide? The ECA Board is coming to Adelaide and would love to meet with you and hear your views on the major issues facing South Australian energy consumers. You’ll also have the chance to hear from our new CEO, Dr Brendan French. If you’re an energy or consumer advocate, small business, industry representative, regulator, or government official, we hope you’ll join us for this networking event.  

When: 5-7pm, Wednesday 15 November 

Where: Intercontinental Adelaide  

From the Grants Team

Gill Owen Scholarship

Do you want to help Australian energy consumers? Do you need support to travel overseas to conduct innovative research that will benefit them? 

Apply today for the Gill Owen Scholarship. You will have the chance to engage with leading thinkers in other countries and apply new insights gained to challenges faced by energy consumers in Australia. But get in quick, applications close on 2 November.  

Influence Grants Open

Our latest Influence Grants round is now open! If you’ve got an advocacy or research idea that benefits energy consumers in Australia we want to hear from you.  

Our Grants Program has supported a wide diversity of projects: from supporting renters in citizen science projects to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, to investigating how to recycle solar PV, to equipping CALD communities to make informed decisions about their energy use.  

Energy Justice & Transmission Expansion

ECA commissioned a desktop review to understand what we can learn about building social licence for energy consumers from the challenges and opportunities of transmission infrastructure expansion viewed through the lens of energy justice. 


In the coming decades, Australian households will need to stop using fossil fuels in their homes and fully electrify. As our Stepping Up report demonstrates, this will benefit all households. We recently provided a submission on this matter to the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Residential Electrification.  

We also recently put forward a submission to IPART on the embedded networks industry consultation paper on energy prices. This review is an important step in ensuring consumers in embedded networks have access to consumer protections that are equal to consumers in the competitive retail energy market. 

Consumer Energy Sector Updates

Here’s a quick rundown on some key sector updates you might have missed: 

  • Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab released a new report, Future Home Demand, which presents 51 emerging trends for household energy demand that will help us accurately plan and build an energy system that reflects consumers needs and values. This report builds on the Digital Energy Futures project that ECA was proud to fund. 
  • The Future of Neighbourhood Batteries Conference is happening on 29 November in Canberra. Register to attend here. The event is free but attendance is limited and priority will be given to those working in the field. ECA is proud to support this conference through our Grants Program. 
  • The next round of Better Renting’s Renter Researchers closes tomorrow (Friday 27th). This citizen science project tracks temperatures in renters’ homes over summer with the data used to advocate for more efficient homes for renters. ECA has previously funded this important work through our Grants Program.  
  • Upgrading the energy performance of millions of Australian houses and apartment buildings is crucial to the health, comfort, energy costs and climate resilience of our homes. The Residential Energy Performance Summit, hosted by the Energy Efficiency Council, will unpack how we can do this best. More information here.  

September Communique

The Board met in September to discuss key policy and organisational priorities.  

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