#BetterTogether – Rich stakeholder insight through the Independent Accountability Panel process

A big thank you to those who engaged in the 2021 Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) Stakeholder Forums which were held across the country from 7 to 12 October as part of the public consultation process. Held online for customers, representatives and stakeholders in Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the Forums offered a great opportunity for feedback on the performance of energy businesses and rich insights for Energy Charter signatories.

In welcoming participants to the Forums, Chair of the IAP Clare Petre (former Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW), noted that it was unfortunate that we were still talking about the impact of COVID and natural disasters on energy customers, and noted that the themes of 2021 were likely to be similar to last year: affordability and energy transition.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, panellist and CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service invited comments on affordability, with a particular focus on those who are in vulnerable circumstances and where more needs to be done. Andrew Richards, panellist and CEO of the Energy Users Association of Australia reinforced that transition and the target of net zero by 2050 had implications for all customers and that it was critical we ensure that no customer is left behind.

More than 50 stakeholders attended the IAP Forums and provided rich feedback and diverse insights. Key issues raised included:

  • Ensuring that nobody is left behind in the energy transition.
  • Who bears the cost of transition, particularly when assets are across jurisdictions?
  • Importance of genuine and authentic engagement with landholders and communities and equitable compensation to build social licence.
  • The interplay between vulnerable communities also being impacted the hardest by climate change.
  • The need for energy efficiency measures and other supports for customers in vulnerable circumstances, as the impacts of COVID continue to be felt.
  • Leveraging COVID supports for customers as business-as-usual.

The importance of the Energy Charter commitments was reinforced, with stakeholders’ noting improvements in engagement with customers and stakeholders, through feedback loops, communications and action, including for culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Energy Charter signatories were encouraged to continue to focus on impact and outcomes for customers.

The next step in the IAP process is stakeholder submissions, which are due by 6 November.

For more details and to watch the IAP Stakeholder Forum recordings visit the IAP website.

#BetterTogether – Collaborating to support energy literacy for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) customers

As part of the #BetterTogether Energy Literacy for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities initiative, Energy Charter signatories Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Jemena, together with AGL Australia and Origin Energy have collaborated with Sydney Alliance to co-design and launch the Voices for Power Energy ‘Train-the-Trainer’ Project.

The Voices for Power Energy ‘Train-the-Trainer’ Project is a first-of-its-kind energy literacy program for CALD communities across Greater Sydney. Delivered in language, in culture and in community, the Train-the-Trainer project is equipping leaders from several cultural and religious communities to become ‘Community Energy Trainers’ through co-delivering a series of informative energy education workshops.

Empowered by these learnings, leaders can then support others within their community to take control of their energy concerns, adopt simple energy safety practices and negotiate a better deal on their energy bills with a specific focus on supporting those in more vulnerable circumstances.

“The relational engagement approach Sydney Alliance champion, which builds in dedicated time to get to know each other, listen, question, and share stories is so important. It means this project and its learnings has been designed with respect and consideration for every person involved and those of the people or businesses that they represent. That is something that will help it stand the test of time.” Emily Duck, Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist at Jemena

“Through deep listening, the Voices for Power project has listened to hundreds of stories from communities about their struggles with the energy system. Voices for Power’s vision is that CALD communities become empowered, informed, and confident actors in the energy system. As a result, CALD communities’ interests and concerns are more readily understood and taken into consideration by other actors in the energy system, including energy businesses, energy regulators and government, when creating energy policy.” Thuy Linh Nguyen, Community Organiser at the Sydney Alliance

Following the completion of the project’s ‘co-design’ stage, which involved numerous energy and community partner workshops and the development of a suite of community training materials, the Voices for Power ‘Train-the-Trainer’ Program is now in its ‘pilot delivery’ stage.

Pilot delivery commenced in late July, with online training sessions held over two days, involving 11 community leaders from Vietnamese, Spanish, Hindi, Nepali, Urdu, Tongan, Arabic and Chinese speaking backgrounds. Training sessions incorporated interactive formats such as verbal and visual presentations, small group discussions, quizzes, story sharing, practical exercises (like bill labelling) and role-plays (including with retailer contact centre staff).

Each training session sought to test the training approach and content, in addition to generating learning outcomes through pre-workshop and post-workshop surveys, observations from the training room and small group debriefing discussions. Community leaders also gave feedback on any improvements to make training more engaging and relevant for their communities. Training topics included:

  • Introduction to the energy system
  • Saving Energy – Reading Your Bill and Getting the Best Deal
  • Saving Energy – Energy Saving Tips and Payment Support
  • Energy Safety

Some of the pilot outcomes included:

  • All participants reported increased confidence taking actions related to their energy bills and energy consumption. Several advised they renegotiated their own deals following the sessions
  • All participants reported now understanding how energy is distributed and supplied to their homes, and all but one could clearly identify the role of retailers versus distributors.
  • All participants reported increased confidence in knowing what to do and who to contact in the event of an energy safety issue

Broader training feedback also found that online delivery was not ideal but still effective, interactive workshops are the most engaging format and simple messages, reiterated often, were grasped easier to help participants to form relational connections.

“At the recent milestone event we heard stories from Community Energy Champions about how the Voices for Power Energy Training Program has impacted them and their communities already. Highlighting the value even from early project stages. We also heard from project partners about the importance of co-design and cross-sector collaboration to achieving real and transformative impact.” – Selina O’Connor, Government and Stakeholder Relations Manager, Ausgrid

Following some minor refinements, further training sessions were rolled out across the Voices for Power network in the Nepalese and Chinese communities throughout September.

Moving forward, the vision for the second half of the project is to train at least 140 community members from diverse backgrounds. To learn more and get involved contact Sydney Alliance!

The Energy Charter October News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council – Frank Tudor MD at Jemena, Landowner and Community Enagegement Guide, Customer Voice Jo De Silva at EWOSA, 2021 Independent Accountability Process, #BetterTogether – $1.5 million to support vulnerable customers impacted by COVID Read More

Energy Consumers invited to have their say

Australian energy users are being invited to have their say on energy businesses including retailers, distribution and transmission companies and generators. This week sees a period of public consultation commence in which electricity and gas customers are specifically invited to comment on the disclosures of electricity and gas companies that are signatories to the Energy Charter. Register here to attend.

The energy businesses’ 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, Frank Tudor said that despite the ongoing impact of COVID on customers and communities, signatories to the Energy Charter had made a concerted effort to collaborate across the supply chain and put customers first.

“2021 has continued to be an extremely challenging year for our customers, communities and signatories with the ongoing impacts of 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’.

“Last month, Energy Charter signatories committed more than $1 million over the next 12 months to deliver and augment a range of programs across Australia, including with community organisations, to step up support for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Thousands of Australians most impacted by COVID-19 will receive vital help to better manage their energy bills and access support programs.

We encourage customers and stakeholders to have their say about whether the energy sector has met their expectations, and where we can do better” Mr Tudor said.

Over the past 12 months, through the Energy Charter:

  • Customers in vulnerable circumstances impacted by COVID-19 were supported individually and collectively by Energy Charter signatories, informed and guided by an evidence based drawn from the 12-month COVID-19 Customer Vulnerability Research by Deloitte
  • Commercial and industrial customers, including small businesses, benefited from increased transparency, accountability and fit-for-purpose products and services through the National Customer Code for Energy Brokers, Consultants and Retailers with more than 40 signatories
  • Directors and Boards have better practice options to ensure the customer voice is appropriately influencing their strategic decision-making and the direction of energy businesses through the Customer Voice @ Board Level Resource
  • Signatories have collaborated on more than 15 #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 online stakeholder forums and CEO interviews to be held throughout October, before making their recommendations public in early December 2021. Written submissions about the signatories’ disclosures are invited by the Independent Accountability Panel until 30 October 2021.