2022 Year in Review

A final message from Rebecca Kardos, CEO Council Chair 2022

Last week, I attended my last meeting as Energy Charter CEO Council Chair, leaving me with much to share and reflect on as we head into the holiday season.

Of note, was the CEO Council’s decision on a joint Statement of Support (SoS) from Energy Charter signatories to their customers and communities across Australia. The industry SoS (published at #BetterTogether Cost of Living) is a commitment to align action on a range of relief, support and prevention measures that assist customers and communities facing vulnerable circumstances as cost-of living pressures rise.

In addition to individual programs and initiatives within each business, the SoS features new collaboration commitments, including a:

  • A nationally coordinated concessions’ awareness campaign and engagement campaign
  • Expanding the Voices for Power train-the-trainer model into Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to support communities facing cost-of-living vulnerability.

The SoS marks the Council’s first collaborative commitment under the Priority #BetterTogether (#BT) on Cost of Living and compliments work already underway through the Landholder and Community Social Licence and Knock to Stay Connected Priority #BTs.

Reflecting on the year, it has been terrific to see the outcomes of the 3-Year Strategic Review come to life, with cross-sector collaboration through the #BetterTogether initiatives now a core focus.

Recently, we saw the culmination of collaboration through the #BT Resilience with the launch of the Disaster Response Playbook, and the launch of the National Customer Code for Energy Comparators & Energy Moving Services earlier this year. It’s also exciting to see conservation groups and signatories in Queensland co-designing a new #BT Biodiversity, with focus on mapping and better practice across biodiversity and renewables development.

The 3-Year Strategic Review also kept accountability and transparency at the heart of the Energy Charter commitment, with fifteen Disclosures submitted and supported by stakeholder feedback summaries, as part of the new decentralised accountability process.

Critically, the Disclosure process has allowed us to track signatory maturity over time, with improvements now evident across each of the five principles. While the commitment of each individual business has been essential, the Energy Charter has also played a key role inspiring customer centric culture change across the sector. 

In 2022, this has included fifteen insight sharing and capability building events, across the #BT Know Your Customers & Communities Community of Practice, the #BT First Nations Better Practice engagement workshop series and the FIAP Champions of Change Series.

With this growth, commitment and action has come increasing credibility. As CEO Council Chair, it has been a privilege to share our work with industry bodies, including the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator and Australian Energy Market Operator. It’s also wonderful to see the Energy Charter invited to participate in the AER’s Game Changers initiative and called out in the Toward Energy Equity Strategy.

Before handing over the reins for 2023, I’ll take a moment to remind signatories, collaborators and supporters of the Energy Charter that Energy customers rely on all of us.

For Energy Charter signatories, the opportunity is to keep humans at the centre of the design and delivery of energy solutions; to navigate the changing needs of customers and communities as we transform to a cleaner energy future.

What gives us power, is our ability to take a whole-of-sector view; to collaborate, innovate and strive for better. To share knowledge and connections from all sides and, importantly, to proactively co-design solutions.

There really is no other collaboration like us; and the work we do, together, has never been more important than it is today. 

I hope all you have happy and joyful festive season, and importantly, a chance to recharge for a big year of collaboration ahead!

The Energy Charter December News Update

Disaster Resilience Playbook

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos, #BT Resilience Disaster Response Playbook, Customer Voice – Landholder and Community Social Licence, Customer Code to Knock to Stay Connected, Decentralised Accountability Process Feedback Summaries Read More

Community of Practice – Compassion in Conflict

Compassion in Conflict
“Conflict is simply energy – the energy caused by a gap between what you want and what you are experiencing. This energy can be misused in ‘drama’ or harnessed to create something positive and useful.”

This is just one of many insights human-centered communication expert Ilona Vass shared at our final #BetterTogether Know Your Customers and Communities event for 2022.

With ‘conflict’ a common feature of infrastructure projects, it’s essential we build capability around compassionate, human-centered conflict strategies.

In the session, Ilona introduced several handy ideas to help us conceptualise, understand, and apply compassion in conflict situations.

Here’s our wrap up of the top tips from the session…

Tip 1 – Remember there is a purpose in conflict: to ‘create’.

We have conflict because, in the creation process, we bring a diversity of opinions and perspectives, which can lead to misunderstanding. Reminding ourselves that conflict serves a purpose is the first step in taking a more positive approach to managing it.

Tip 2 – Positive and negative energies

If we think about conflict as a gap in energy – we can then differentiate between the positive and negative energies being created. When energy is used as a weapon, the result is unhelpful ‘drama’, where those involved need to be right, justify their position and intention and stay emotionally detached.

When conflict is met with compassion, those involved connect at a human level, invite collaboration, listen with empathy, and aim to move forward with mutual agreement. Applying a compassionate approach is not only more likely to resolve the conflict, but helps to avoid ‘explosive’ responses and results in a much more positive experience for those involved. 

Tip 3 – The 4 C’s to work towards conflict with compassion

When approaching conflict with compassion, there’s four ‘C’s’ to work toward – ‘Courage’, ‘Clarity’, ‘Conversations’ and ‘Consistency’.

  1. Courage – we must be willing to move away from an emotionally detached position and address the emotions sitting at the heart of the problem.
  2. Clarity – it’s critical to stay clear on your message and avoid confusion by changing positions in ‘the heat of the moment’. By being transparent, we allow other party the opportunity understand our perspective and consider our suggestions for an agreeable solution.
  3. Conversation – we must make time to have the conversations that allow us to listen deeply and find mutually aggregable pathways forward. Resolutions cannot be found without a willingness to keep the conversation going.
  4. Consistency – the above C’s need to be applied consistently. Remaining clear, being consistent in our willingness to converse and staying courageous, is crucial to avoiding drama-fuelled, adversarial communication.

Tip 4 – Open communication.

This can be challenging, especially in situations where the other party is aggressive, however, open communication is a great tactic for keeping conversations on track toward a solution. In the frame of conflict communication, openness means being emotionally transparent and creating a safe space for others, including by maintaining the mindset that all parties are worthwhile. Empathising with other parties by sharing a similar personal experience, or showing that you resonate with their experience is one way to keep a conversation open.

It’s also essential to validate the other person’s emotions, including by asking questions around the feelings that are being felt and talking time explore them together. It can be helpful to actively disclose your own emotions also, for example, by letting the other person know how you are feeling about the conversation. Being open doesn’t mean being vulnerable in a way that makes you feel unsafe, or in a way that is not relevant to solving the specific problem at hand – it simply means being willing to connect with the other person on a human level

So, why does this matter?

Inevitability, infrastructure projects across the water and energy sector will involve conflict because of the creation process. As the energy sector embarks on a once-in-a-generation infrastructure build to transition to renewables, community and landholder engagement is increasingly in the spotlight. With hundreds of conversations occurring with impacted landowners, host communities and advocates every day, it’s essential that those responsible have the skills and know-how to manage conflict with compassion.

Positive conflict strategies not only reduce the inevitable costs of miscommunication and increase the likelihood of reaching a mutually agreed solutions faster, they also materially reduce stress and improve the experience for all involved.

This event was held as part of The Energy Charter’s #BetterTogether Know Your Customers and Communities collaboration with Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). This unique collaboration connects water and energy sector participants with a new guest speaker every month, to discuss customer and community engagement and facilitate a practical conversation on how to apply better practice in business.

Thanks to Ilona Vass for sharing her knowledge on this very important topic. To learn more about Ilona’s work on communication and positive conflict strategies visit: Dancing with the Dragons – Leadership and Team Communication Expert

#BetterTogether – Agricultural Landholders and Transmission: On the Ground Insights

How could electricity transmission infrastructure and agriculture co-exist and create shared value? That’s the question we’re seeking to answer through our social licence research exploring co-existence and shared value opportunities for landholders affected by transmission infrastructure.

As Australia moves towards a renewable energy future, a growing number of agricultural landholders are being approached to host electricity transmission infrastructure of their land.

Our energy businesses recognise that these transmission development projects, as well as the maintenance of existing infrastructure, may impact the lives and livelihoods of agricultural landholders.

They also understand that they have a responsibility to recognise and minimise these impacts and work towards agreeable outcomes for everyone.

What will this research be used for?

Our social licence research will be used to guide the development of practical guidelines for co-existence between electricity transmission infrastructure, agricultural landholders and their communities. Our goal is to develop guidelines that will:

  • Provide a plain English understanding of the practical impacts that energy transmission infrastructure may have on agricultural operations
  • Identify practical modifications and mitigations that could be considered, by both agricultural operators and transmission infrastructure businesses, to minimise potential impacts
  • Identify shared value opportunities, to dually support sustainable agricultural production and transmission planning and operation.

Who’s involved?

This initiative is the result industry collaboration between Transgrid, Powerlink, TasNetworks, ElectraNet and AusNet.

A key part of this collaboration has also been the formation of a Community Outcomes Group (COG). The purpose of the COG is to provide strategic insights into the agricultural sector to co-design the research and resulting guideline.

Our Landholder Community Outcomes Group includes representatives from: Ag Energy Taskforce, Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Bundaberg Canegrowers, National Farmers’ Federation, National Irrigators Council, RE-Alliance, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Queensland Farmers’ Federation and Victorian Farmers Federation.

Our research partner is KPMG Australia.

What’s involved in the research?

The research component of this initiative involved a landholder survey, which was completed by 144 landowners across QLD, NSW, TAS, VIC and SA. Eighteen deep-dive interviews were also conducted with landholders committed to sharing their experiences on how transmission infrastructure has, or is expected to, impact them.

What have we learnt so far?

Agricultural landholders are, of course, not a homogenous group – there are many variables which affect how transmission impacts them and the way they use their land. This includes the type of farming activities that are being undertaken, the value an individual, or farming business, places on any particular feature of a property and the quality of the engagement that has taken place, just to name a few.

It is not surprising then, that when it comes to assessing impacts, our research validated 34 individual impacts across the areas of agricultural operations, wellbeing, financial and environmental.

Here’s some of the themes industry collaborators are working through with ag sector representatives:

  1. Visual impacts, financial loss and biosecurity risk were reported as the most significantly felt impacts for landholders.
  2. At community level, landholders reported that the most likely negative impacts relate to decreased property value, visual amenity, and neighbour relations.
  3. The impacts felt by landholders change over the planning, construction and operation phase of the infrastructure lifecycle, with many impacts appearing to lessen over time.
  4. Landholders identified a range of economic and social benefits for their wider communities, however, identified few benefits as infrastructure hosts.
  5. Landholders identified a range of mitigation measures that could help with co-existence, ranking ‘input into the planning process’ as the most important action transmission businesses can take. More local, community involvement was also rated as a key action to improve co-existence outcomes.
  6. While few benefits were reported, a range of shared value options were suggested. Broadly these related to improving energy affordability and reliability, further investment in rural infrastructure, and utilisation of transmission project resources (both during and after construction).

The better practice guidelines, which will utilise the finding of the research to offer a smorgasbord of options and opportunities to improve coexistence outcomes and realise shared value is expected to be released in Q1 2023.

More about this project

The Energy Charter is a unique coalition of like-minded energy organisations with a shared purpose and passion for customers. Our purpose is to empower one another across the energy supply chain to deliver better energy outcomes for customers and communities.

One of the ways this is achieved is through collaborative projects, called #BetterTogether initiatives, that focus on delivering tangible customer and community outcomes. This Landholder and Community Social Licence Research has been endorsed by the Energy Charter’s CEO Council as a Priority #BetterTogether initiative, recognising the importance of ensuring that no one is left behind in Australia’s transition to renewables.

November 2022 News Update

Gavin Dufty

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora Energy, Collaboration Spotlight, Customer Voice Gavin Dufty, General Manager, Policy and Research, St Vinnies, Priority #BT Landholder & Community Social License and Insights Sharing Events.  Read More

#BetterTogether – Bringing the Customer Voice to Board

Customer Voice to Board
Top-level leadership putting customers at the centre of decision making is what Principle 1 of the Energy Charter is all about. But what does this look like in practice? What do customer-focused Boards need to make good decisions and how can you amplify the customer voice at Board?

We explored this topic at a recent #BetterTogerher Know Your Customers & Communities session with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), interviewing Independent Chair of the Energy Charter End Users Consultative Group and experienced Board member Cath Smith.

Cath opened the session making the point that in an increasingly complex business and social environment, businesses that focus on the needs of customers are likely to outperform others.

“Boards are the cultural leaders of an organisation, and the chief stewards of risk and opportunity. It’s essential they have the know how to improve customer outcomes, not only for the customer, but as an intrinsic part of managing risk, delivering better commercial outcomes, and avoiding unnecessary political intervention and regulatory delays” Cath said.

When framing up the risk and opportunity with your Board, there are a range of ownership structures that might impact how you position the value of elevating the customer voice.

Cath explained, “For many businesses there is a regulatory requirement to engage with customers and it’s important that Boards are kept up to speed with expanding expectations in this area. 

“For privately-owned businesses, there is a direct commercial argument to be made – risks are better managed and commercial outcomes are more successful, when customers’ voices are brought up to the board.

“When governance structures and processes support the elevation of the customer voice, Boards have access to more diverse thinking, broader insights and can also better understand the lived experience and perceptions of their customers.”

Kate McCue, Manager Corporate Affairs at Endeavour Energy also joined the session to share her experience using the Energy Charter’s Customer Voice @ Board resource.

“We used the Customer Voice @ Board resource as tool to conduct a gap analysis with our Board. Recognising the extremely challenging experiences of our customers through COVID-19 and natural disasters, we agreed with our Board that we needed to focus-in on customer engagement and become an industry leader in this area” Kate said.

“We brought our Board, Executive, Customer Consultative Committee and subject matter experts together for a full day workshop to set ambitious targets together. These conversations were critical in building a shared understanding between our Board and stakeholders.

“We also had our Board open and close our online customer panel and observe customer conversations. This has been transformational for our Board in building a deep understanding of the issues that are front and centre for our customers.

“We now have a calendar in place to get our Board out to meet key customers regularly, and also include them in staff events so they can hear from staff that interact with our customers on a daily basis” she explianed.

Having participated in a range of customer engagement activities as a Board member, Cath agrees enabling customer interaction can be extremely valuable for Boards but does require careful planning.

“Be aware that people are likely to be very polite when meeting Board members. It’s important to create experiences where Board members will hear genuine views. This could, for example, include having board members sit in on customers calls.

“It’s also important to provide context and set expectations about what the purpose of the interaction is, in many cases it is to observe and listen, but not direct the action.

“It can be helpful to separate customer engagement from the Board decision-making process, holding events out-of-session, to give Board members the opportunity to gather insight and context without having to immediately apply that information to a decision.”

“Building in time for Board members to digest, analyse and consider the implications of their experience at a strategic level is critical” Cath said.

The Energy Charter Customer Voice @ Board resource features many more practical insights that support the energy sector to embrace the customer voice at a board level, across the areas of:

  1. Board composition and training
  2. Board meetings
  3. Decision-making
  4. Customer engagement
  5. Risk and assurance
  6. Customer advocacy structures

October 2022 News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, 2022 Disclosure Reports live, Customer Voice Jayden Bregu, Youth Panel Members GCC, Landholder and Community Social Licence #BT and Priority #BT Voices for Power Read More

#BetterTogether: Bringing the voice of youth into business – why it matters!

Empowering young people to be part of decision-making processes for issues that affect them is critical to helping businesses apply an intergenerational lens to complex problems.

What was discussed in the #BetterTogether COP

In this month’s #BetterTogether Know Your Customers & Communities Community of Practice (CoP), we explored why bringing the voice of youth to the table in business matters, what’s in it for young people and practical examples on how manage a Youth Panel effectively.

“Engaging with young people helps us to understand how they access services and navigate the world that they’re growing up in now which is so different to what it was 10-20 years ago.”

 – Claudia Rosario, Greater Cities Commission

Claudia Rosario, Senior Manager Engagement and Youth Panel member and co-chair Jayden Bregu at the Greater Cities Commission (GCC) joined Chris Warr, Community, Communications and Environment Lead at TasNetworks’ North West Transmission Developments participated in an interactive panel discussion.

Together, they covered everything from discussing why it matters to recruitment and governance. Read more for the top 3 questions answered.

Top 3 questions answered

1. Why is it so important to bring young people into decision-making discussions for business?

“The real value in bringing young people to the table is around the insights they share about thier lived experience.” – Claudia Rosario, Greater Cities Commission

Claudia Rosario, shared that, put simply, the world is a very different place to what it was 10, 20 or even 40 years ago and therefore the experience a young person has in this world is also very different. The work that is delivered now is going to have a significant impact on the lives of young people and future generations to come. So it’s important that they have the opportunity to contribute to the plans and policies that aim to address the complex problems we face now and into the future.

Bringing a youth voice to the table can change the way businesses think about or approach problems. It’s important to acknowledge that businesses may not have all the answers when it comes to young people. When we engage with young people about issues that matter to them, they are often tapping into insights from their wider network as young people tend to turn to their peers, colleagues and friends to discuss ideas and share knowledge.

When asked why the youth voice was different, Jayden Bregu Youth Panel member and co-chair shared:

  1. We think about our lives a lot
  2. We know what frustrates us
  3. We know what works well
  4. And we know what could improve

Jayden said, “I think it’s really important that businesses not just engage with young people because they’re going to be the users of services over a period of time, but because they have great ideas about those things. When you ask a young person a question, they are more likely to give you an uninhibited view”.

2. What’s in it for young people?

Claudia Rosario shared that engaging with young people early on in their lives also helps to build the confidence and skills to actively contribute and participate in conversations about things that are going to affect them. This could include city planning or long-term strategic issues in the energy and water sectors.

It’s a win-win scenario with shared value created by building a level of literacy around these issues early and helping young people to develop those critical thinking skills that will benefit us all into the future.

Chris Warr shared the key benefit for young people has been on capability building including:

  • Public speaking presentation skills
  • Ability to collaborate work as a diverse team
  • Critical thinking
  • Debating
  • Employment referees
  • Further opportunities including leadership training courses and media training

“It was important to involve them early, but particularly also as being a cohort that’s often left out of these types of processes as well” Chris said.

3. So, what are the mechanics of a Youth Panel?

Youth Panels are formal mechanisms that brings young people into the conversation. They can be set up to support projects or as an ongoing role to support the organization.

Greater Cities Commission Youth Panels have an ongoing role to support the organization aspects include:

  • Recruiting a diverse panel to reflect people from all walks of life through existing relationships but also through an EOI process
  • Advisory role (rather than decision making) seeking feedback and advice to inform strategies, plans and policies
  • Up to 10 youth panellists with members aged between 18 to 30 years
  • Clearly defined roles and expectations of the panel
  • Required to attend a series of meetings (approx. 4-6 per year) with pre-reading and preparation in advance
  • Required to maintain connections with the communities and groups of networks that they represent
  • Foster engagement with panel members and staff

TasNetworks youth engagement is project specific focused on community benefits sharing including:

  • “Youth panel design process” centered around the development of community benefits sharing programs
  • Professionally facilitated both in person and online meetings
  • Youth responsible for making recommendations for the development of a community benefit sharing framework around three core questions:
  1. What projects or activities could be awarded funding under that framework?
  2. Who should be awarded funding and defining those communities
  3. How the program should be delivered?

To learn more, please get in touch with Claudia Rosario, Senior Engagement Manager and Jayden Bregu, Youth Panel member and co-chair at the Greater Cities Commission and Chris Warr, Community, Communications and Environment Lead at TasNetworks.

We are the Energy Charter: a unique coalition of like-minded energy organisations with a shared purpose and passion for customers and communities. Our purpose is to empower one another across the energy supply chain to deliver better energy outcomes for customers and communities. Our vision is that together, we can create a better energy future for all Australians.

September 2022 News Update

Message from the Chair of the CEO Council, Rebecca Kardos CEO at Aurora, #BetterTogether Know Your Customers and Communities, Biodiversity and Renewables, Priority #BT Customer Code to Knock to Stay Connected, 2022 Full Energy Charter Signatory Disclosures & Accountability  Read More

#BetterTogether – Elevating Inclusion in Innovation

Elevating Inclusion in Innovation

With the proliferation of new technologies and household energy products, and a new energy future rapidly unfolding across households and neighbourhoods, does an opportunity exist for organisations to elevate inclusion into their innovation strategies?  

This is one of the key questions the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) is helping us to incubate when considering how Energy Charter signatories can best support customers in vulnerable circumstances who face mounting cost-of-living pressures.  

Historically, the focus on households experiencing energy hardship and disadvantage has been supports for payment difficulties, emergency relief and advice on how to use energy more efficiently.  

Matters of access have traditionally focused on competition and things such as the ability to switch. This makes sense with what was historically a homogenous product, scaled business models and a centralised energy system. This is also reflected in the focus of regulation on matters of hardship and supports. 

These supports and relief play an essential role, however they are not the complete toolkit. Product and service design, innovation and the powerhouse of problem-solving capability and investment that these can bring – so far these are relatively absent. 

With support and relief measures struggling to bridge the gap in energy affordability across distressed households in 2022, and with widening divides between people able to access the benefits of the energy transformation or not – elevating the role of innovation deserves deep consideration. 

Focusing on the intersection between equity and social outcomes, market innovation and policy, QCOSS recently undertook research on this very subject.  

Through expert interviews with 31 people across 12 energy organisations, QCOSS sought to shed light on three key questions:  

  1. How can innovation play a greater role in designing products that better deliver benefits of emerging energy products to consumers currently missing out, particularly those experiencing disadvantage, or on low income?   
  2. How can we increase the accessibility of existing products and services for consumers experiencing disadvantage or low income to improve equitable access across all consumers?   
  3. Considering the roles of different industry stakeholders, what role can and should the Queensland government play in enabling these outcomes?  

QCOSS’ research found that there is an untapped potential for innovation  

While vulnerability and hardship are priorities for energy organisations, this does not yet manifest as a driver or key priority within innovation. Higher commercial and regulatory priorities, coupled with common impediments to innovation, including cost, mean innovation is currently focused elsewhere.  

A variety of examples of business improvement and innovation activity to improve disadvantaged customer service provision or inclusion were provided by interviewees, however, activity mainly relates to hardship and billing cycle-related service areas – rather than systematic investment in solving for root causes of exclusion or addressing barriers to access to future energy technologies.  

Innovation activity that is strongly related to this challenge tends to occur on a standalone project, or opportunistic basis (including government-created opportunities), versus via management of a strategic pipeline of projects and options as a core priority of the organisation’s innovation teams. 

The mix of market environment disruptors – shifting energy economics and competition – is creating an opportunity to leverage emerging product development efforts, and the imperative to find a new market model towards improving access and benefits for people currently excluded.

QCOSS’ findings suggest that government, working closely together with innovating organisations, can enable market-based solutions for households currently excluded. 

The range of solution areas is significant and, with the right policy and partnerships, could deliver an urgently needed increase in problem-solving activity and delivery of fairer outcomes and greater benefits to those most in-need across our communities – particularly low-income renters and those with financial barriers to access. 

As innovation is not free, the historical distribution of innovation costs has seen a disproportionate cost burden on disadvantaged people, with fewer incentives designed for them. 

While incentives designed for early adoption have been effective and are important, QCOSS found there is more that can be done and more that is needed.  

It is in all stakeholders’ interests to find sustainable pathways to one future energy market. As the transformation gathers pace, preventing a widening disparity between those participating in new service offerings and those who are underserved must be addressed. 

Stay tuned for upcoming announcements from the Energy Charter CEO Council on support for those in vulnerable circumstances, under Principle 5 of the Energy Charter.