Energy industry stepped up in 2019-20 but is unprepared for looming challenges: Energy Charter review

Energy industry stepped up in 2019-20 but is unprepared for looming challenges: Energy Charter review

Australia’s energy suppliers must lift their game to be ready for a post-pandemic debt tsunami and to make energy transition work for energy consumers, according to the annual independent assessment of the voluntary sector-led Energy Charter.

The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel today published its second annual assessment of the progress and performance of the 19 Signatories to the Energy Charter and the broader energy sector.

Chair of the Panel, Clare Petre, said energy suppliers had done well to deal with some significant challenges in the last 12 months including natural disasters and COVID-19, but failing to meet the looming challenges would come at great cost to all energy consumers especially people in vulnerable circumstances.

Ms Petre said 2019-20 was tough for households and businesses, including the companies that generate, deliver and sell the electricity and gas that is so integral to our lives.

“The Panel considers that the way affected Energy Charter Signatories supported their customers through the catastrophic bushfires and other natural disasters was a credit to the commitment of those companies and their people. From our observations and stakeholder feedback, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been more mixed”, Ms Petre said. 

Ms Petre said that it was evident to the Independent Panel that Energy Charter Signatories are taking a serious approach to asking themselves how well they are delivering better outcomes for customers.

The Independent Panel identified two tests of the strong commitment to the Energy Charter expressed by Signatory CEOs:

  1. How well Signatories are preparing for a potential post-pandemic debt tsunami when government and other support for their customers is removed or reduced in 2021.
  2. The contribution of Signatories to ensuring that the inevitable transition to net zero emissions is as stable, least cost, and as fair as possible.

Ms Petre said Energy Charter Signatories passing these tests was necessary for good consumer outcomes, but others needed to work with them, including energy retail and network businesses and new generation companies who have not yet signed up to the Charter.

Ms Petre said meaningful, unavoidable obligations attach to being in the business of delivering a life-sustaining product that people must have.

“Energy Charter Signatories have stepped up. The energy industry has played a key and often life-saving role in response to natural disasters and COVID-19, alongside other essential industries.

“However, in the provision of a service that is essential – to people’s daily lives, to the economy and to our national competitiveness – a pass mark isn’t good enough. Signatories cannot be content that they are on track to deliver against the Energy Charter Principles, or satisfied that they are generally doing the right thing by their customers, unless they have collectively acknowledged looming major challenges and are working together to proactively manage likely consumer impacts and capture opportunities for consumer benefit.”

The independent panel’s 2019-20 report makes 15 recommendations to Energy Charter Signatories, with a strong focus on proactive identification of and assistance to customers in vulnerable circumstances.

It also called for a shared understanding of customer vulnerability – including financial, physical, cultural, digital disadvantage – so that no customers are left behind or denied support.

“Companies should actively identify and reach out to customers in vulnerable circumstances rather than continue to rely on consumer self-advocacy, which often means that support is not made available until debt has already accrued.”

The independent panel also called for a whole of sector focus on making energy transition work for consumers.

Selected recommendations to Energy Charter Signatories:

  • Find ways to utilise payment and usage data to proactively identify and assist customers in vulnerable circumstances, so that the industry and policy-makers are taking all steps within their power to support customers in financial difficulty and to reduce payment difficulties in 2021.
  • Audit all customers on payment or hardship plans, and immediately and retrospectively switch them to the cheapest plan available and adjust the debt accordingly.
  • Work with governments to establish a practically failsafe system to ensure each and every customer who is entitled to a concession receives it.
  • Adopt and each publicly articulate a clear, collective approach that builds on recent energy industry acknowledgements of the inevitability of change, effectively communicates how the “north star” of net zero emissions feeds into better consumer outcomes, and drives a whole of sector focus on making energy transition work for consumers.

Ms Petre said the Panel was extremely disappointed to receive advice that Origin Energy and AGL had decided to withdraw from the Energy Charter.

“Our report has called on those energy providers who are not already Signatories to sign up to the important Energy Charter. We therefore consider that this withdrawal from the Energy Charter by two such major Australian energy providers as Origin Energy and AGL, shows poor leadership at a time when the energy industry needs to work together more than ever”.

“The major energy retailers and grid companies that are not already part of the Energy Charter and the major new renewable generation companies should step up to contribute and collaborate through the Energy Charter.”

 

Media contact: 
Emily Wood 0421 042 121

 

2020 Independent Accountability Panel Report
https://theenergycharterpanel.com.au/panel-reports/

 

More information about 
The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel: theenergycharterpanel.com.au
The Energy Charter: theenergycharter.com.au

 

Call for Customer Feedback

The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel calls for customer feedback on energy company performance

The Energy Charter is an industry-led, whole-of-sector initiative to address customer expectations of the energy industry. Energy businesses across the energy supply chain have committed to this initiative to progress the culture and develop the solutions required to deliver energy in line with community expectations.

The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel was established to assess the progress of the energy companies that are Signatories to the Energy Charter Principles.

The Panel has received the second year’s disclosures from the Signatories to the Energy Charter and is now seeking customer and other stakeholder feedback on these reports from the Signatories on their progress in delivering on the Energy Charter Principles.

The 2020 disclosures are available on the Independent Accountability Panel’s website

The Chair of the three-person Independent Accountability Panel, Clare Petre, said the Independent Accountability Panel is looking forward to hearing from residential customers, businesses, and other stakeholders to help the Panel assess performance of the Signatories against the Energy Charter Principles.

Clare Petre said that the Panel is keen to hear from customers and stakeholders about the extent to which the industry is becoming more customer centric and building trust.

“The Independent Accountability Panel’s role is to provide an independent view of the Signatories’ performance in delivering for their customers against the Energy Charter Principles and to identify areas needing further improvement. The experience of customers and other stakeholders is central to our understanding of the impact of the Charter and to guide our assessment,” said Clare Petre.

After reviewing the disclosures and customer and stakeholder feedback, the Independent Accountability Panel will publish a public evaluation report at the end of November 2020.

Customers and stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the disclosures by attending one of the Panel’s Industry Disclosure Forums to be held October 19-23, 2020: Register now. You can also write to the Independent Accountability Panel by 5pm Sydney time on 30 October by sending your submissions to submissions@theenergycharterpanel.com.au or via our Contact Us page.

Energy Consumers Invited to have their say

Energy consumers invited to have their say

2 October, 2020

Australian energy users are being invited to have their say on energy generators, distribution and transmission companies and retailers. Today sees a period of public consultation commence in which electricity and gas customers are specifically invited to comment on the disclosures of 19 Australian energy companies, all of which are signatories to the Energy Charter.

Signatories’ disclosures benchmark the improvements Energy Charter companies undertake to be more customer focused over a 12-month period. They also measure the progress signatories have made against the recommendations handed down by the Independent Accountability Panel last year.

Chair of the Energy Charter CEO Council, Ben Wilson said that despite a number of issues faced in the past year, energy company signatories to the Energy Charter have made a concerted effort to collaborate along the supply chain and put customers first.

“This has been an extremely challenging year for our customers, communities and signatories with bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with these challenges also come unique opportunities to better support Australians, to step beyond business-as-usual and demonstrate as a sector we are working together on the vision of the Energy Charter to ‘deliver energy for a better Australia’.

We welcome the opportunity for customers, communities and their representatives to have their say about whether the energy sector has met their expectations,” Mr Wilson said.

Over the past 12 months through the Energy Charter, signatories have collectively:

  • Produced a focused awareness campaign during COVID-19 to inform customers of the help available to them. They highlighted opportunities to discuss bills and energy usage, with information and support messaging translated across 10 languages, together with customer resources for COVID-19, including for students
  • Committed to include public customer satisfaction scores in their disclosures to the Independent Accountability Panel
  • Sponsored more than 10 #BetterTogether initiatives that saw groups of businesses working together to deliver outcomes for customers such as improving electricity and gas connections, getting concessions to the right people and improving energy literacy for culturally and linguistically diverse communities

The Energy Charter signatories’ disclosure reports have been submitted to the Independent Accountability Panel for review which is chaired by Clare Petre with panellists Cassandra Goldie, CEO Australian Council of Social Service and Andrew Richards, CEO Energy Users Association of Australia.

The Independent Accountability Panel’s period of public consultation will include CEO interviews and online stakeholder forums to be held throughout October, before making their recommendations public in early December 2020. Written submissions about the signatories’ disclosures are invited by the Independent Accountability Panel until 30 October 2020.

To have your say, visit www.theenergycharterpanel.com.au
For more about the Energy Charter, visit www.theenergycharter.com.au

[ENDS]

For media enquiries, please contact:
Sabiene Heindl, E: director@theenergycharter.com M: 0412 039 747

Energy Charter Signatories

Established in January 2019, the Energy Charter is a CEO-led initiative of 19 Australian energy companies. It is the first time that all parts of the energy supply chain have come together and committed to a disclosure framework to help deliver a more affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system for all Australians.

19 signatories: ActewAGL, AGL, APA Group, Aurora Energy, Ausgrid, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, Clean Co, CS Energy, Endeavour Energy, Energy Queensland Limited including Ergon Energy Network, Energex, Yurika and Ergon Energy Retail, EnergyAustralia, Essential Energy, Horizon Power, Jemena & Ovida, Meridian Energy Australia & Powershop Australia, Origin Energy, Powerlink Queensland, Stanwell and TransGrid.

For more information visit Energy Charter

Follow the Energy Charter LinkedIn

The Independent Accountability Panel

The Independent Accountability Panel is made up of:

Clare Petre (Chair), former Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW

Cassandra Goldie, CEO Australian Council of Social Service

Andrew Richards, CEO Energy Users Association of Australia

For more information visit Energy Charter panel

Independent panel releases first Energy Charter review

Independent panel releases first Energy Charter review

The Independent Accountability Panel set-up to oversee the performance of energy businesses under the voluntary sector-led Energy Charter initiative, today published its evaluation of the first round of written Disclosures that were made by the Signatories in September.

Chair of the Panel, Dr Wendy Craik, congratulated CEOs for their commitment to disclosing outcomes, which marked a “significant milestone in the life of the Charter”.

“We are encouraged by our meetings with CEOs, where they generally expressed a high level of ambition to start putting the customer at the centre of their businesses,” said Dr Craik.

“One of our observations is that the commitment by CEOs in our discussions with them goes beyond what this year’s written disclosures suggest.

“They have acknowledged this is a sector that must connect with its customers to build trust and this requires a clear understanding of the diverse needs of their customer base.

“To this end, future disclosures by companies will need to demonstrate work to go beyond looking at their customers as a homogenous group.”

As a result of the evaluation, Dr Craik flagged that Panel members expected future reports to provide more comparable data which measures outcomes for consumers.

“We’re encouraged by some early work by many of the Signatories, but it has been difficult to compare performance across companies due to the lack of a consistent set of measures.

“In some ways this reflects the early stage of the initiative, but in future years we expect energy companies to work together to come up with a set of measures which are consistent and benchmarkable so that we can compare performance.

“Ultimately this approach will mean the most effective actions can be shared with other companies so that good practice becomes common practice.”

Dr Craik said the next report from the Charter Signatories was expected to track the impact of new initiatives described in the Charter’s first disclosure report.

“There are several good initiatives and the next challenge for the Signatories will be showing customers precisely how they have led to better outcomes for them.

“Key to changing the culture of energy companies will be ensuring the customer voice is elevated to the highest levels of the business, at the governance and strategic level.

“Energy affordability is a critical issue and the Panel recommends Signatories provide analysis of the factors impacting on their diverse customer groups, including energy use and capacity to pay, as well as price.

“Companies need to show progress on improving the drivers of better affordability, such as tariff design, concessions, and ensuring customers are on the best offer available.

“Signatories should collaborate to accelerate access to energy efficiency and distributed energy for customers who are being left behind.”

Other themes from the Accountability Panel’s report include:

  • working together on high impact activities that will achieve better and faster outcomes for customers than a business working alone;
  • ensuring customers facing vulnerabilities are not left behind in the work being done to modernise the energy system; and
  • less reporting on compliance with a greater focus on additional activities which go beyond compliance with regulation
  • Clearer commitments to deliver specific results, including on sustainability, as well as improved customer outcomes.

“The Charter is about activity which goes beyond compliance activity required by the law, so actions such as delivering default market offers doesn’t really belong in the Charter disclosures,” said Dr Craik.

As a result of the Panel’s assessment of underlying themes and the Principles, it has made 32 recommendations to the Signatories, which are contained in the final report – here.

Dr Craik said the Panel believes that implementation of these recommendations will enhance the energy experiences of customers and provide stakeholders with increasing evidence of the commitment of Signatories to the Principles of the Charter.

“While this is the first year of the Energy Charter and there is still a long way to go, the Panel is pleased with the willingness of Signatories to genuinely engage in the process.”

Media contact: Tim O’Halloran 0409 059 617

Call for Customer Feedback

The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel calls for customer feedback on energy company performance

The Energy Charter is an industry-led, whole-of-sector initiative to address customer expectations of the energy industry. Energy businesses across the energy supply chain have committed to this world first initiative to progress the culture and develop the solutions required to deliver energy in line with community expectations.

The Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel has been established to assess the progress of the energy companies that are Signatories to the Energy Charter Principles.

The Panel has received the first disclosures from the Signatories to the Energy Charter and is now seeking customer and other stakeholder feedback on these reports from the Signatories on their progress in delivering on the Energy Charter Principles.

The disclosures are available on the Independent Accountability Panel’s website

The Chair of the four-person Independent Accountability Panel, Dr Wendy Craik AM, said the Independent Accountability Panel is looking forward to hearing from domestic customers; businesses (large and small) and other stakeholders to help the Panel assess performance of the Signatories against the Energy Charter Principles.

Dr Craik said it is vital that the Panel hears from diverse customers and stakeholders about the extent to which the industry is becoming more customer centric and building trust.

“The Independent Accountability Panel’s role is to provide an independent view of the Signatories’ performance in delivering for their customers against the Energy Charter Principles and to identify areas requiring further improvement. We need help from customers and other stakeholders to guide our assessment,” said Dr Craik.

The Panel has released an Issues Paper today outlining key themes which we would like feedback on.”

After reviewing the disclosures and customer and stakeholder feedback, the Independent Accountability Panel will publish a public evaluation report at the end of November 2019.

Customers and stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the disclosures by writing to the Independent Accountability Panel by 25 October or they are welcome to attend one of the Panel’s public forums in Brisbane (10 October), Sydney (11 October) or Melbourne (14 October) or the online forum (16 October), which will be focusing on regional and rural issues.

More information about the Panel’s public engagement events can be found here

Media Contact: Dr Wendy Craik AM chair@theenergycharterpanel.com.au

The Issues Paper can be found here

More information about The Energy Charter can be found here