#BetterTogether – Customer and stakeholder engagement an important step for Energy Charter disclosures

Customer Advocacy Groups

As Energy Charter signatories prepare their 2019-20 disclosures for the Independent Accountability Panel process, engagement with customer and stakeholder representatives has reiterated the value of different perspectives.

“Our Customer Advocacy Group is not just to inform, it’s about the dialogue and the shared learnings, and we have good connections to their members through their communication channels. The Customer Advocacy Group raise concerns/feedback directly with us or we meet directly with their members to resolve any issues.” Karyn Looby, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist at Essential Energy.

“The AGL Customer Council has been running continuously since 1998 as a way to bring a diversity of customer views into the business. The Council has evolved over time as the needs of the business have changed and we refreshed membership earlier this year to reflect the need to support a broader group of customers, including older Australians and those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. We engage with members throughout the year, especially when we are grappling with issues and members input can help inform our decision-making.”  Amanda Kennedy, Head of Customer Policy at AGL

Customer and stakeholder councils are a proactive forum for consultation, engagement and insight across a customer base on key consumer matters relating to energy businesses, including the Energy Charter. While representatives vary between signatories, they often consist of people representing their customer or communities.

This year, the majority of Energy Charter signatories have proactively engaged with their customer groups and broader stakeholders, through their disclosure process to leverage the different viewpoints and genuinely assess current performance and maturity against Energy Charter principles.

For Essential Energy, the process has broadened their perspective on their current level of maturity in relation to the Energy Charter Maturity Model and reinforced that they’re only at the beginning of their customer journey. This time last year, engagement with their Customer Advocacy Group (CAG) drove the understanding that the Energy Charter is a living process and the annual Disclosure is a static slice. The CAG reiterated that the Energy Charter will be a success when it’s not used as a mechanism to check off KPIs but creates durability and is responsive to community needs and expectations.

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) also took the important step of engaging with external stakeholders to ensure their self-assessment was both fair and reasonable, and that they were staying focused on customer outcomes. CEO of AGIG, Ben Wilson walked a number of stakeholders through their self-assessment, including representatives from consumer and business groups such as Consumers SA, Council of the Ageing, Multicultural Communities Council of SA as well as energy retailers including Origin, AGL and Energy Australia. AGIG already has an extensive engagement programme established as part of their regulatory processes, so the groups involved were familiar with the energy sector and AGIG’s role within it. Feedback is now being incorporated into their final response to ensure they’re being truly objective and making progress towards real change for customers.

“At Aurora, stakeholder engagement is all about asking community and customer representatives for feedback and input before we make decisions on things that may impact them. It’s about including them in our decision-making processes to create alignment between our performance and the expectations of the community we are a part of.

For this reason, our engagement on our Disclosure is not only about whether our self-assessment aligns with that of our stakeholders. We’re also asking if the areas we’ve highlighted for improvement are the areas they would like see us focus on in the future, and how they would like to see us go about meeting our commitments to the Energy Charter.

Fundamentally, through this process, we’re asking our community and customer representatives to help shape the way forward for our business.” Amy Abraham, Senior Corporate Affairs & Stakeholder Relations Advisor at Aurora Energy

Energy Charter disclosures will be submitted to the Independent Accountability Panel on 30 September. As Energy Charter signatories, we thank those involved across the signatories in the customer councils for their insights and engagement in the preparation of the disclosures. We look to ongoing engagement through the Independent Accountability Panel process.