Electricity reforms on their way

A new wave of reforms are set to help electricity companies put the consumer first and to ease the struggle of rising electricity prices. This series of moves is set to provide much needed relief to energy customers.

The new reforms will ease price pressures on households and businesses and ensure more efficient energy markets, said resources and energy minister Gary Gray on June 6.

Mr Gray acknowledged that the biggest driver of electricity prices in recent years has been network investment in poles and wires, rather than other factors such as the carbon price or renewable energy. This is a fact also reflected in the Queensland Competition Authority's recent final determination on electricity prices.

"I'm pleased to announce that all States and Territories have agreed to make it harder for energy companies to ignore consumers' interests," said Mr Gray.

Through the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER) states and territories agreed to reforms. Firstly, the appeals framework for energy will be changed, meaning that appeals to regulatory decisions must be decided in the long term interests of the consumers.

Secondly, a national energy consumer advocacy body will be set up from July 1 2014, which will put in place clear lines of communication with the relevant and affected groups and individuals. The advocacy body would also work on behalf of the consumer to develop evidence based research which would in turn influence the energy market reform program.

"These reforms are part of the most comprehensive package of reforms to Australia's electricity markets in more than a decade, returning consumer interests to the centre of Australia's electricity markets," said Mr Gray.

Other reform changes include strengthening energy market governance and empowering consumers through the use of improved access to energy data through measures such as advanced metering.

In addition, a greater level of competition will be introduced into the market, and network investment will need to be balanced and supported by a thorough regulatory framework.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has previously stated its goals to align Australia's electricity providers with the consumers' needs.

"For the first time, there is a regulatory requirement for network businesses to consult with their consumers in the development of their regulatory proposal. And, the AER is now required to take into account this consultation when considering the proposal," said the chairman of AER Andrew Reeves.

This news provides a level of cautious optimism for the consumer who may now experience fewer struggles with their household electricity.

Posted by Charlie Moore