Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, #BetterTogether Landholder and Community Social Licence, #BetterTogether Customer Code for Knock Before You Disconnect, Financial Counselling Australia training and meet the team! Read More
How can I better manage my energy bills? What financial support is available and how can I access it? What about energy efficiency? These are some of the questions asked by customers accessing the Uniting Energy Support Program, supported by Energy Charter signatories APA, CS Energy, Jemena, Endeavour Energy, Energy Queensland, Essential Energy and Powerlink under Energy Charter Principle Five – we will support customers facing vulnerable circumstances.
Uniting’s Energy Support Program was initially set up in September last year to help Australians most impacted by COVID-19 as part of the Energy Charter commitment of $1.5 million to support vulnerable customers impacted by COVID.
The program offers tailored, one-on-one advice and assistance to energy customers across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, and now, with increased need to support Australians impacted by cost-of-living pressures, support like this has become even more important.
“Our program focuses on energy efficiency advice through behaviour change. We aim to help people understand the relationship they have with their appliances and how that impacts their bills. We then give advice on how to get the most out of their appliances without it costing too much. This helps to reduce the household’s ongoing bills.
We also make sure people are accessing supports, concessions and affordable payment plans provided by their energy retailer. We help participants to understand their bills, their rights and make sure they get access to any debt relief grants or vouchers that might be available in their state. This helps to reduce outstanding debt and takes away the threat of disconnection.” – Matt Cairns, Uniting Vic Tas Senior Manager – Energy and Financial Literacy
The Uniting Energy Support Program also works collaboratively by referring to other community programs such as financial counselling and emergency relief supports if additional needs are identified.
“If people have debts with their energy provider, they are more than likely to have debt with their credit card, in rent arrears, or going without other essentials such as medicine, food or kids clothes to try and make ends meet ” Matt said.
Case Study: Unable to cover cost of electricity/gas bills.
Naomi is from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background and has experienced domestic family violence in the recent past. Because of her experience Naomi now lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has physical disabilities. She is a single parent, on a fixed Government pension, living in social housing with her young adult children.
Naomi has had issues receiving Centrelink in the past which has caused problems keeping on top of essential expenses, including energy bills. This has also impacted on her ability to make rental payments and cover other expenses. She requires continual care in the home and support to access her community. Energy debt has accumulated since she was unable to cover cost of energy usage or maintain payment plans set up in the past.
Through the Uniting Energy Support Program, Naomi received:
- Energy efficiency advice to ensure she could reduce electricity and gas consumption to safe and affordable levels.
- Help with her energy retailer to review her payment plan, flag her account as ‘life support’ and a receive a medical rebate form to apply for the medical equipment supplement through Centrelink.
- Backdated concession rate to help reduce some of the outstanding debt.
Naomi also was referred to:
- Emergency relief program for supports with food, petrol vouchers, and phone bill.
- Centrelink multicultural services for advocacy support to check Centrelink concessions and payments.
- Tenancy Advice line for advice on rental payment with social housing.
- Local support program for white good replacement and food vouchers.
Naomi and her carer were extremely appreciative of the referrals to further supports and for highlighting the lack of concessions for over 1 year. The backdating of the concession will support her to reduce her current debt but also with her future bills.
*All identifying information has been replaced
To date, the Uniting Energy Support Program has received around 260 overall referrals from individual householders with 195 completing appointments and 551 overall interactions with clients.
“As Energy Charter signatories, it’s really important to us that we do our part to tackle disadvantage and support our customers as they navigate the energy sector,” said Jemena’s Executive General Manager of Energy Networks, Shaun Reardon.
“Our partnership with Uniting Vic.Tas – the Uniting Energy Assist Program – empowers customers across our electricity network in Melbourne and gas network in New South Wales to take charge of their energy bills, access available support, and learn easy energy saving tips through over-the-phone home energy appointments.
“Uniting have been fantastic project partners, and with their support we have been able save customer’s $650 on average, while also enhancing their understanding of the often complex energy sector.”
To learn more about the Uniting Energy Support Program, work to prevent energy debt and help connect your customers with support, please contact Matt Cairns, Uniting Vic Tas Senior Manager – Energy and Financial Literacy via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, #BetterTogether updates – final National Customer Code for Energy Comparators & Energy Moving Services, the first-ever Life Support Medical Advisory Group (LMAG), Knock Before You Disconnect and Communal Content Hub Read More
Practical ways to engage people with lived experience in our communities with insights and learnings from TasCollab – a co-designed cross-sector collaboration pilot.
In a ground-breaking collaboration for the energy sector in Tasmania, Energy Charter signatories Aurora Energy and TasNetworks along with Hydro Tasmania and Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS) have partnered across sectors to collectively implement TasCollab.
TasCollab is a new cross-sector collaboration bringing together community service and research organisations, businesses, and community members to explore innovative and tangible solutions to societal issues in lutruwita / trouwunna (Tasmania).
A key factor to its success was bringing the community voice to the table.
Dr Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, Stakeholder engagement and policy officer at Tasmanian Council of Social Services (TasCOSS) and TasCollab lead said: “People are starting to realise that old engagement methods are not the most appropriate, inclusive or authentic. Often the structures created in those methods unintentionally exclude people with lived experience and those that are most at risk and vulnerable.
For TasCollab, we wanted to include community members in a way that these businesses had not done before that truly centred lived experience in the collaborative process.
We started a Community Voice Partnership Program which focused on lived experience advocacy that recruits, trains, mentors, and pays community members with diverse lived experiences to work with us. These Community Voice Partners all had an equal seat at the co-design table.”
Practical ways TasCollab engaged with people with lived experience include:
- Equal seat at the co-design table – proportionally equal representation between Community Voice Partners, community sector and business.
- Process orientated approach – equal importance placed on the process (co-creation, collaboration and relationships) as outcomes.
- Collaborative foundations – a lot of time (3-4 months) was spent building collaborative structures & relationships including principles, terms of reference, resources, decision making tools, guidelines for addressing unconscious bias and safe spacing for sharing vulnerability etc. to ensure the way we worked together on a project was inclusive and effective.
- Distributed leadership model – rotating facilitation role across partners where people led small subgroups with the support of TasCollab facilitator Dr Lucy Mercer-Mapstone. This enabled all partners to take on a leadership role with topic areas they were interested or had skills sets in. This saw community members working with energy business staff to co-facilitate co-creation sessions for example.
“This was a really powerful example of collaboration across diverse identities and positionalities” Lucy said.
Through the extensive co-design process, the TasCollab pilot will focus on a new lived experience advocacy program named ‘Community Partnership Program’ that sits within TasCOSS . The program will create paid opportunities and training for people on low incomes to influence services, policies, procedures, and decisions that affect them This is a formal program where people with lived experience are recruited ethically and paid, receive formal training and ongoing mentoring to prepare them to:
- Work in partnership with a community service organisation to revise or create a new service.
- Collaborate on projects.
- Sit on interview panels for hiring roles in community service organisations or financial hardship teams.
- Sit on boards, governance groups or working committees.
- Speak at business professional development or media events.
When asked, why does this kind of engagement matter? Lucy said:
“Fundamentally, it comes down to the question, can we really keep doing our jobs ethically if we’re not engaging people with lived experience of the services that we’re offering? For me, it’s time to acknowledge that we can’t really be doing our jobs well in the absence of the customer groups who use the services that we’re delivering. Ultimately we’re here to support them to lead good lives and they know best what that looks like.”
TasCollab is reaching its twelve-month milestone and will be undertake a review and evaluation. To learn more about the program email Lucy via email email@example.com
The Energy Charter + Water Services Association Australia (WSAA) #BetterTogether Community of Practice enables the opportunity for collaboration, co-design and knowledge sharing, particularly through the energy supply chain and across sectors. To learn more visit #BetterTogether
Energy Charter future focus elevates #BetterTogether collaboration
We’re excited to announce that on the back of our recent 3-Year Strategic Review, the Energy Charter will place greater focus on cross-sector collaboration through our #BetterTogether initiatives to continue to deliver better outcomes for customers at a time of unprecedented change in the energy industry.
Feedback from customer representatives and stakeholders showed the Energy Charter has delivered value for customers and communities across the whole supply chain. The most valued aspects were collaboration, building trusted relationships and knowledge sharing. There was also a desire to see more and bigger outcomes from the #BetterTogether initiatives. Many thanks to everyone who provided feedback, it has really shaped the continued evolution of the Energy Charter.
Many of the challenges facing energy customers such as ensuring an equitable energy transition and improved support for vulnerable customers cannot be meaningfully achieved by individual energy businesses.
Rather, we need the entire supply chain to come together and identify solutions for all customer segments. That’s what the #BetterTogether initiatives enable us to do. To ensure that the Energy Charter is set up to meet the new challenges for customers, the elevated Energy Charter #BetterTogether program will enable a ‘whole-of-system’ collaborative approach to achieve this. With CEOs making a public commitment to Priority #BetterTogether initiatives, the Energy Charter will accelerate better customer outcomes into the future.
Importantly, Full Energy Charter signatories will continue to focus on accountability publishing annual signatory disclosure reports demonstrating how they performed against the Energy Charter principles. Building on the gains made over the last 3 years, the accountability framework will leverage existing business’ stakeholder consultation structures, rather than through the Independent Accountability Panel. We thank Clare Petre, Chair and panellists Andrew Richards and Cassandra Goldie for their hard work and commitment, and ongoing support for the Energy Charter.
The Energy Charter uniquely brings together collective and individual elements of the energy supply chain for whole of system alignment and action, while supporting individual businesses to do better for their customers. We’re excited to continue to work with all of you in this exciting phase of elevated #BetterTogether action and delivery for our customers and communities.
2022 Chair of the CEO Council
CEO at Aurora
As Chair of the Energy Charter End-User Consultative Group (EUCG), made up of close to 20 consumer and business representatives from across Australia, I welcome the elevation of the #BetterTogether initiatives by the Energy Charter CEO Council.
The Energy Charter has achieved better outcomes for customers and community. The EUCG feedback throughout the 3-Year Strategic Review was to encourage Energy Charter signatories to do more. How? With a whole of supply chain focus on delivering customers outcomes through the #BetterTogether initiatives. It needs to be strategic and future-focused. It needs to prioritise emerging customer issues, particularly given the energy transition.
The core proposition of the Energy Charter is that customer representatives can engage with businesses across the energy supply chain, with a sharp focus on customers. We look forward to co-designing ways in which Energy Charter signatories can better support and build capacity within consumer advocacy. We are keen to collaborate on setting the agenda for #BetterTogether initiatives that align with consumer priorities. Finally, we encourage Energy Charter signatories to think strategically about how to resource meaningful consumer engagement through the new approach to decentralised accountability.
Independent Chair of the EUCG
A national CEO-led collaboration that supports the energy sector towards a customer-centric future. Our core values of “Be invested, make a difference”, “Be open, learn and improve”, and “Think big, be bold” are brought to life through #BetterTogether initiatives focused on delivering better customer outcomes for all Australians.
Message from the Chair of the CEO Council – Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, #EN2022 Gas Evolution: The Customer Journey, Customer Voice – Joy Thomas at National Irrigators’ Council, #BetterTogether Know Your Customers & Communities National Customer Code for Energy Comparators & Energy Moving Services Stakeholder consultation concluding Read More
Led by First Nations leaders in the energy sector, the #BetterTogether First Nations Engagement focuses on better engagement and collaboration with First Nations people, in partnership with the water industry.
Last month, Energy Charter signatories and collaborators, along with representatives from the water sector, had the opportunity to learn more about Horizon Power’s Aboriginal Engagement Strategy, enabled by the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2022-24, the Aboriginal engagement model and performance and reporting mechanisms, during a First Nations listening session.
“Horizon Power has the privilege to work, live alongside and provide electricity services to Aboriginal people across our region including remote Western Australia.
Our vision for reconciliation is embedded within our current corporate strategy with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commitment as one of our four guiding principles.
Aboriginal cultures, histories and participation should be seen, heard, respected and valued as an integral part of our business and we want to have a positive impact on Aboriginal customers, suppliers, employees and communities throughout.” – Aaron Matthews, Aboriginal Engagement Officer at Horizon Power
The Aboriginal Engagement Strategy has been designed to progress and embed better practice Aboriginal engagement across the business and focuses on strengthening their commitment to Aboriginal people with targeted initiatives.
Four key results areas across the business include:
- Operating on Aboriginal land
- Communication, engagement, and customer relations
- Commercial relationship and capacity building
- Recruitment, retention and the employment pathway
What’s authentic? Where do you start? How can we do better?
Guiding principles were unpacked with key questions to help demonstrate how principles could be applied to day-to-day business activities and bring them to life. For example:
- Cultural Safety – Are you recognising & respecting Aboriginal people’s cultural rights & psychological safety?
- Mutual Respect – Are you being honest and authentic?
- Self Determination – Have you included Aboriginal voices both during consultation & decision making?
- Social Impact – How does this impact Aboriginal people?
- Valuing Culture & Heritage – Are you valuing and supporting the protection of Aboriginal culture & heritage?
The Aboriginal Engagement Strategy also aligns with broader national Aboriginal Closing the Gap targets.
To learn more, download the Horizon Power Aboriginal Engagement Strategy – First Nations Engagement information pack
#BetterTogether First Nations Engagement is Led by TasNetworks, Essential Energy, Energy Queensland, SA Water, Transgrid, EWON, Horizon Power and Greater Western Water with other water and energy businesses and advocates.
Message from the new Chair of the CEO Council – Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, National Customer Code for Energy Comparators & Energy Moving Services, COVID Vulnerable Customer Support Update from Uniting Vic Tas, #BetterTogether Know Your Customers & Communities, and WE Lunch + Learn – Reframing Complaints Read More
Signatories of the National Customer Code for Energy Brokers, Consultants & Retailers (Code) are saving commercial and industrial (C&I) energy customers significant time and money by transitioning from a traditional transactional role to providing tailored customer-centric energy support services.
“By ‘thinking outside of the box’ with a ‘customer hat on’ WiseUp Energy Solutions has provided a more holistic service for our commercial and industrial (C&I) energy customers. Critical to this has been connections, and ongoing relationships, with both distribution networks and retailers, with some made through the Energy Charter.” – Sharon Musker, WiseUp Energy Solutions
The National Customer Code for Energy Brokers, Consultants & Retailers is voluntary, and all energy brokers, consultants and retailers are welcome to sign up. In signing up to the Code, they are committing to:
- Customer centricity – putting customers at the centre of their business and making decisions based on what is in the customers’ best interests
- Transparency – providing clear, accurate and relevant information to help customers make informed choices
- Fit for purpose – ensuring that products and services are responsible, accurate and meet customer expectations
- Accountability – being responsive to customer needs and taking prompt, appropriate action if a customer makes a complaint to ensure continuous improvement
Through their client energy support services, WiseUp Energy Solutions has provided additional investigation and analysis for businesses unable to make decisions due to the impact of COVID-19. These have included reviewing alignment of seasonal tariff/budgets, value assessments, and seasonal consumption forecasting, enabling them to tailor energy saving solutions for their commercial and industrial (C&I) energy customers.
Sharon Musker, WiseUp Energy Solutions said, “Better outcomes for customers have been successfully achieved through trusted relationships with energy distribution networks and retailers. Being a signatory to the Code has helped to advocate for these.”
The National Customer Code for Energy Brokers, Consultants & Retailers was launched in December 2020 and aims to give large customers confidence that Signatories are working together in their best interests and delivering value to them. The Customer Code also addresses some of the concerns about third party intermediaries’ selling practices raised in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry Report 2018. To learn more visit: National Customer Code – Energy Brokers, Consultants and Retailers
“The Energy Charter represents a genuine collaboration across the energy sector to put customers at the front and centre. In committing to the five principles of the Energy Charter, businesses across retail, distribution, transmission and generation work together to deliver tangible customer benefits through #BetterTogether initiatives. I am thrilled to be chairing the Energy Charter CEO Council in its fourth year of operation.” Ms Kardos said.
In early 2022, Energy Charter signatories will conduct a strategic review to reflect on the customer outcomes achieved through the platform of the Energy Charter and identify areas for improvement. Signatories will also further respond to the recommendations of the Independent Accountability Panel last year: additional support for vulnerable customers and coming together to better plan the path to meeting customer and community expectations on net zero by 2050.The Energy Charter CEO Council acknowledged and thanked out going Chair, Managing Director of Jemena, Frank Tudor, for his outstanding leadership during 2021.
Rebecca was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Aurora Energy in July 2014 and appointed as a Director of Aurora Energy in November 2014.Rebecca has significant executive experience in the utilities sector in Australia and New Zealand in both the public and private sector. Prior to joining Aurora Energy, Rebecca held the position of General Manager Retail at Synergy in Western Australia. Rebecca is currently a Board member of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (since May 2018). Rebecca has a Master of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Computer Science and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.