Energy affordability remains an ongoing challenge

Energy affordability remains a key issue for consumers and communities across Australia.

“We continue to look at how we can support our customers into the future. We have purposely been changing our systems, our processes and our ways of working – feeding into the Aurora way – which is around our values and our purpose, and how can we be better for our customers?…. We’ve learned that there’s always more you can do. The job is never done. It’s a journey, not a destination. – Rebecca Kardos, CEO Aurora Energy

Over the last month, the Energy Charter’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) has reviewed full signatory disclosure reports, interviewed CEOs and held a series of national Stakeholder Forums across Australia. In doing so, two issues for the energy sector have been highlighted:

  • Energy affordability, especially for those most vulnerable in our communities
  • The energy transition and the importance of not leaving anybody behind.

In our last short blog, we looked at the energy transition. In this short blog we will look at the issue of energy affordability.

In interviews with CEOs, Cassandra Goldie, consumer panellist and CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) highlighted that over the last 12 months COVID had continued to impact the community. She reinforced concerns about the increasing cohort of people who simply cannot afford their energy. This presented a key area for potential collaboration for support from signatories, and also called for sustainable solutions from regulators and government.

In response, Energy Charter CEOs raised examples of better practice embedded their businesses to deliver energy more affordably, including:

  • Increased solar connections in regional areas of Western Australia and more automated processing of concession entitlements (Stephanie Unwin, CEO Horizon Power)
  • Longstanding relationships with community organisations such as Uniting to deliver support to the most vulnerable customers (Frank Tudor, MD Jemena) which culminated in the commitment of $1.5 million across Energy Charter signatories for supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances over the next 12 months
  • Extension of Energy Support Programs to Tasmanian residential and business customers through COVID (Rebecca Kardos, Aurora Energy)
  • Proactively using energy data and analytics to better understand energy usage profiles and target customers in hardship (John Knox, ActewAGL)
  • Targeted campaigns to encourage customers to claim their energy concessions and rebates (Rod Duke, CEO Energy Queensland)
  • The development of a Vulnerable Customer Assistance Program (Ben Wilson, CEO AGIG)
  • The innovative #BetterTogether “train the trainer” program with Voices for Power, Sydney Alliance that offers energy literacy training in Western Sydney for culturally and linguistically diverse communities (Richard Gross, CEO Ausgrid, Frank Tudor, MD Jemena, Guy Chalkley, CEO Endeavour).

Energy affordability is likely to remain an ongoing key concern for consumers, as highlighted in our COVID-19 Customer Vulnerability research by Deloitte. Therefore, the focus of many of the Energy Charter #BetterTogether initiatives will continue to be upon how to better support those customers facing hardship in our communities.

Energy Charter CEOs also recognise the growing intersection between the two themes identified by the Independent Accountability Panel: namely affordability and transition. As Guy Chalkley, CEO Endeavour Energy stated:

“I don’t think Net Zero is about leaving people behind, I think Net Zero is our opportunity to at last, get people to catch up.”

To watch the IAP interviews with Energy Charter signatories, please visit the IAP website.

Independent Accountability Panel identifies key customer issues: Transition and Affordability

“Previously it was all about Affordability, with a big A, now its Affordability with a big A and Resilience with a big R, and we’re trying to balance the two in a better way.’ – Guy Chalkley, CEO Endeavour Energy

Over the last month, the Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) has reviewed signatory disclosure reports, interviewed CEOs and held a series of national Stakeholder Forums. In doing so, two key issues for the energy sector have been highlighted:

  • The energy transition and the importance of not leaving anybody behind
  • Energy affordability, especially for those most vulnerable in our communities

Energy transition

In this short blog, we look at the challenge of the energy transition and reflect on some of the responses of the CEOs in their interviews with the IAP.

In both the IAP’s Stakeholder Forums and interviews with the CEOs, Andrew Richards, panellist and CEO of the Energy Users Association of Australia, reinforced that energy transition had implications for all customers and that it was critical we ensure that no customer was left behind.

In addition, during his interview with Andrew Bills, CEO of CS Energy, Andrew Richards suggested that the Callide Futures Group could be a blueprint for managing the transition, or more aptly described, the transformation.

Andrew Bills explained how CS Energy was working with its people and unions through the Callide Futures Group to assess how to best position the Callide B workforce to take up new opportunities as the energy sector transforms over the coming decades. This included a demographic study of the workforce to help identify pathways based on choice and inclusivity.

“Our customers happen to own us.  We have five million Queenslanders and they are our owners.  If you ask our shareholders would they prefer a slightly enhanced dividend or slightly lower electricity price, I think we all know they are going to prefer money in their pocket rather money in pockets of a central Treasury.” – Paul Simshauser, CEO Powerlink Queensland

Paul Simshauser, CEO of Powerlink Queensland and Brian Salter, Acting CEO of Transgrid reflected on the importance of the community-led transition to transmission businesses. It’s not just what these businesses do, but how it is done: including engaging early with customers to test ideas, grounding those ideas in consumer research and ensuring that the transition aligns with goals of affordability.

Community engagement was identified as critical to the building of infrastructure for the transition, with the Energy Charter #BetterTogether Better Practice Landholder and Community Engagement Guide helping to ensure more consistency across jurisdictions for customers. A social impact lens also helped with authentic and early engagement and in driving mutual or shared value outcomes. It was about creating long-lasting benefits to customers and communities.

Part of this is culture change – transitioning from an engineering and asset-based business to a customer centric organisation. Transmission businesses haven’t always directly engaged with mums and dads and small businesses, so the approach was shifting to bring the customer into the discussions and decision making. This included performance indicators for senior executives on customer-centricity, understanding the hierarchy of what’s most important for customers and identifying pain points for customers. The Energy Charter was identified as a key internal change agent.

“We’re very committed to the Energy Charter and the principles that underpin it. We’ve formally adopted this year ‘customer centricity’ as a goal of the organisation.” – Brian Salter, Acting CEO, Transgrid

Andrew Richards reinforced the importance of the emerging issue of social licence regarding the transition.  Australia’s energy sector is undergoing rapid change. Pressure is building to deliver reliable, affordable, safe and sustainable energy for consumers, while making the necessary investments to support transformation from fossil-fuelled centralized generation to renewable and distributed energy. 

Within this transition, Energy Charter signatories acknowledge that there is a unique opportunity to align with social licence and consumer expectations. This is an ambitious cultural change piece and requires transparency, accountability and #BetterTogether collaboration.

To watch the IAP interviews with Energy Charter signatories visit the IAP website.

The Energy Charter November News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council – Frank Tudor MD at Jemena, Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) Stakeholder Forum Insights, Customer Voice Sabiene Heindl, IAP CEO Interviews, IAP key dates #BetterTogether  Collaborating to support energy literacy for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) customers Read More