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