Happy 5th Birthday to the Energy Charter!

Energy Charter Launch 2019

Today, the Energy Charter turns 5!

In some ways it feels like the blink of the eye since 17 CEOs gathered in Sydney to launch a world-first, whole of energy sector initiative to address customer expectations.

Yet at the same time, for our customers, community and the sector there have been unparalleled challenges and opportunities to navigate including COVID-19, cost-of-living crisis and the rapidly accelerating shift to renewables.

Increasing collaboration + decentralised accountability

The Energy Charter started out as purely an accountability mechanism against 5 Principles, focusing on embedding customer-centric culture and conduct in energy businesses to create real improvements in affordability and service delivery. For the first 3 years, Signatories delivered comprehensive Disclosures to an Independent Accountability Panel and CEOs were publicly interviewed and assessed on their performance.

In 2020, collaborative initiatives emerged. The #BetterTogether initiatives involve customer and community representatives working with industry through an innovation platform of “ideate, incubate and accelerate” to make meaningful change and deliver impact and outcomes.

In 2021, following a 3-Year Strategic Review, the Energy Charter CEO Council agreed to place greater focus on cross-sector collaboration through the #BetterTogether initiatives to deliver better outcomes for customers and communities. Full Signatories continued to focus on accountability publishing annual Disclosures demonstrating how they performed against the Energy Charter Principles. Building on the gains made over the last 3 years, the accountability framework now leverages existing business’ stakeholder consultation structures, rather than through the Independent Accountability Panel.

Over the last 4 years we’ve collaborated across 20 #BetterTogethers, rolled out 3 independent Customer Codes and supported 3 Communities of Practice. Signatories have published 91 Disclosures assessing their maturity and detailing outcomes and forward commitments to customers and communities.

What have we learnt?

Culture time is a slow burn. It takes leadership. It takes true commitment by Boards, CEOs and people at all levels within the business. It takes important gestures to build trust, such as setting up genuine mechanisms to listen to customers and communities and act upon them.

CEO Forum 2023

CEO Forum: Charting a Better Energy Future 2023. Read the blog here.

In our case, this has been the set-up of Customer and Community Outcome Groups (COGs) to strategically guide our #BetterTogether initiatives.

Joy Thomas - Ag Energy Rountable

Joy Thomas, Independent Chair, Ag + Energy Social Licence Roundtable

And, last but certainly not least, it remains essential to have a dedicated platform for collaboration like the Energy Charter to drive the change that is needed most.

IWG End of year workshop 2023

Energy Charter Industry Working Group (IWG) end-of-year workshop 2023

Continuous improvement

Since our inception, we’ve gained new Signatories including AusNet Services, Jacana Energy (NT), Horizon Power (WA), SA Power Networks and TasNetworks and new Signatory categories:

  • #BetterTogether Collaborators: including Energy Estate (our first renewable developer), and
  • Energy Charter Supporters: including AEMO and JLL Infrastructure.

We’ve also entered Collaboration Agreements with water sector, renewables and community sector partners.

We have grown the team to 4 dynamic and committed individuals, who work collaboratively across the energy sector with customers and communities on key priorities across social licence in the energy transition and energy affordability.

Energy Charter team at the Leadership Retreat 2023

We have also been building our Impact Framework in 2023, launching in March 2024. Work with Action with Impact reinforced that the Energy Charter:

  • Creates a trusted national platform to raise awareness and share customer and community opportunities across the entire energy sector
  • Provides a framework approach to understanding challenges and respond collaboratively to bridge the gap between ‘hard-to-do’ and ‘can-do’ with a big and bold mindset
  • Builds a trusted space to share learnings, have difficult conversations and scale solutions that benefit customers and communities
  • Leverages ‘building block’ structure through the #BetterTogether framework to create pathways from research and insights into action + impact
  • Aligns CEOs to a shared accountability model, to self-assess maturity and commit to better outcomes for customers and communities.

Who are we now?

The Energy Charter is a unique coalition of like-minded energy organisations with a shared purpose and passion for customers and communities. We are here to stay.

We know that customers and communities rely on all of us. We all use energy every day. It lights our homes and powers businesses. We’re all part of the same ecosystem, so working #BetterTogether is vital now and into the future.

Our purpose is to empower one another to deliver better energy outcomes for customers and communities. Our vision is that together, we can create a better energy future for all Australians.

For us, 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.

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

We thank all the amazing people that have contributed to the journey of the Energy Charter and pay tribute to those that kicked us off!

The story of energy - An artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove

The above artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove tells the story of energy, how it connects all of Australia and the Energy Charter’s commitment to create a better energy future for all Australians. Learn more here.


On 31 January 2019, 17 CEOs gathered in Sydney to commit to the Energy Charter led by a Panel of:

  • John Cleland, Chief Executive Officer, Essential Energy
  • Nevenka Codevelle, Energy Charter Industry Working Group Chair 
  • Mick McCormack, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, APA Group
  • Ed McManus, Chief Executive Officer, Powershop
  • Andrew Richards, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Users’ Association of Australia
  • Rosemary Sinclair AM, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Consumers Australia
  • David Smales, Chief Executive Officer, Energy Queensland
  • Catherine Tanna, Managing Director, EnergyAustralia

Original Signatories included: AGL, APA Group, Aurora Energy, Ausgrid, AusNet Services, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, CS Energy, Endeavour Energy, Energy Queensland Limited including Ergon Energy Network, Energex, Yurika and Ergon Energy Retail, EnergyAustralia, Essential Energy, Jemena & Ovida, Meridian Energy Australia & Powershop Australia, Origin Energy, Powerlink Queensland, Stanwell and Transgrid.

Community of Practice – Engagement that informs strategy and customer pricing

Community of Practice – Engagement that informs strategy and customer pricing

A transformational journey toward best practice customer and community engagement

Discover the expert-led discussions as part of the ‘Know your Customers + Communities’ Community of Practice’ that covers a range of engagement topics specific to the energy and water sectors. These sessions focus on insight sharing and building capability to better engage with customers and communities and ensure the ‘customer voice’ can be heard across all levels within businesses.

In December, we heard from Kellie King, General Manager Community & Corporate Services at Wannon Water about their transformational journey, starting in 2017, toward better practice customer and community engagement, in pursuit of becoming a truly customer centric organisation. 

In 2023, Wannon Water won the IAP2 Core Values Organisation of the year for Australasia, and also took out the IAP2 Core Values Organisation of the year Internationally!

Wannon Water began by developing their own definition of community engagement and a new Community Engagement Framework and ‘toolkit’. Built on a commitment to best practice from their most senior levels, the framework is based on the IAP2 Core Values.

They delivered framework training across their organisation and designed a new “Wannon Water Engagement Cycle” (WWEC), a comprehensive annual program that informs their yearly strategic plan and provides iterative input to setting our five-yearly customer pricing.

Watch Kellie discuss Wannon Water's engagement journey

Check out Kellie’s PowerPoint from the session to refer back to resources and access in future.

Introducing Kellie King, General Manager Community and Corporate Services at Wannon Water

“My purpose is to facilitate great outcomes for people and their communities. I am a values driven, people-centred, leader and executive. My focus is on partnership, engagement, relationships, wellbeing, integrity, and ethics.

My background includes working within local and state governments, not-for-profit organisations, small business, government business enterprise and running my own consultancy business.

Past roles have spanned the education, health, community, and water sectors in metropolitan and regional areas in Victoria, Australia. I’m grateful to be a graduate of Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Community Leadership Program, JMW’s Leader of the Future Program, the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) course and hold accreditation as a Partnership Broker with the Partnership Brokers Association (PBA).”

About the Know your Customers + Communities events

This event is part of the Energy Charter’s ‘Know your Customers + Communities’ Community of Practice. This Community of Practice is a collaboration between the Energy Charter and Water Services Association of Australia under our Collaboration Memo of Understanding (MoU)

Energy Charter Disclosure 2022-23

Charting a Better Energy Future - EC Disclosure

Charting a Better Energy Future

Charting a better future is always an iterative process. Every year since 2019, I have seen the Energy Charter grow its reach and impact through our #BetterTogether initiatives and stay nimble in aligning to customer and community expectations in an energy system that’s rapidly transforming.

I’m proud to share the Energy Charter Disclosure 2022-23. Its purpose is two-fold: to provide an overview of the collective progress we have made over the past year across #BetterTogether initiatives and through our Accountability Process, and to inform where we focus our efforts in the future.

In our Disclosure, there’s a summary of our 12 #BetterTogether initiatives and their outcomes, our observations on the collective maturity self-assessments and a summary view of themes across all Signatory Disclosures. Overall, the maturity of Signatories has continued to trend in the right direction, however at a pace that reflects the growing complexity of the cost-of-living and transition challenges for our customers and communities. 

Looking to the future, it’s clear we must stay the course with our #BetterTogether initiatives and Communities of Practice to address growing cost-of-living pressures and social licence challenges. 

There is always more we can do…..

Sabiene Heindl
Executive Director
The Energy Charter

Our collaborative highlights

Our outgoing CEO Council Chair 2023, Guy Chalkley, CEO Endeavour Energy proudly shared some key highlights that we have delivered for customers and communities, including:

Guy Chalkley
CEO Council Chair 2023
CEO Endeavour Energy

Celebrating our key achievements with Energy Charter Signatory CEOs

On 6 December 2023, we celebrated our collective achievements for customers and communities at our CEO Forum: Charting a Better Energy future.

“There’s such a willingness to share and finding better ways of doing things” – Stephanie Unwin on our unique CEO-led collaboration.

“The #BetterPractice Social Licence Guideline is a bible” – Sean Mc Goldrick on the importance of working together on the issues that matter.

We were thrilled to hear from a panel of Energy Charter Signatory CEOs from across the nation to celebrate our collaboration highlights, including:

  • Guy Chalkley, CEO Council Chair and CEO Endeavour Energy (NSW)
  • Andrew Bills, CEO Council Deputy Chair and CEO SA Power Networks
  • Stephanie Unwin, CEO Horizon Power
  • Louisa Kinnear, CEO Jacana Energy
  • John Cleland, CEO Essential Energy
  • Seán Mc Goldrick, CEO TasNetworks
  • Mark Brownfield, CCO EnergyAustralia
  • Sabiene Heindl, ED Energy Charter

And last, but certainly not least, a massive thank you!

Thank you to our Independent Chairs and Administrator, End-User Consultative Group and Consumer + Community Outcome Group members together with the Energy Charter Signatories for your continued support and active participation. 

By working #BetterTogether and leading the way, we can continue to put customers and communities at the centre of our business and the energy system. We can chart a better future for us all, together.

Resilience Community of Practice – Bushfire Preparedness and Lessons Learnt

Preparing networks for extreme weather to keep customers and communities safe

After three years of La Niña rains suppressed bushfire activity, this spring and summer may be the most active fire season in four years. What does it mean to prepare well, and what have we learnt from previous bushfire responses?

In the November Resilience Community of Practice, we heard from Paul Erwin, Head of Customer Service at SA Power Networks regarding the work SA Power Networks (SAPN) is doing to prepare for the season ahead, including working with critical partners like the SA Country Fire Service.

The impacts of extreme weather on communities + energy networks

When it comes to extreme weather, energy network providers need to prepare for a range of scenarios to ensure customers and communities stay safe and connected to power.

Paul explains that there are various scenarios that need to be considered, especially when the hotter months are among us. Some of these extreme weather events include:

  • Extended heatwaves with hot nights result in high levels of energy demand and equipment gets little chance to cool
  • Bushfires that can cause significant damage and outages
  • Lightning strikes impact infrastructure and cause outages
  • High winds can bring down trees and tree limbs or propel airborne debris and cause significant damage.

These impacts are common challenges faced by all energy providers. Paul goes on the explain that,

“[Networks] can be damaged by a fire, it can be damaged by smoke from a fire that can trip it off and it’s vulnerable during storms to the impact of things like trees or wind blowing debris and other impacts like lightning strikes during a storm.

So, for those of you that are network providers, this is nothing unusual to you, but it’s something that’s important that you can relate in your communications to customers about why they’re experiencing a number of outages that they may experience throughout their lifetime connected to the network.”

Preparing for extreme weather conditions, including bushfire season, is critical to ensure customers, communities and equipment all stay safe.

Proactive measures and planning for extreme weather

At SAPN, Paul explains the sophisticated approach they take to minimising risks to customers and equipment, as well as the steps in preparing for the impacts of extreme weather events including bushfires and storms.

“We have what we believe is a sophisticated approach to minimising those risks to the best that we possibly can. Understanding we’re still going to bear some of those problems; we prepare for summer and extreme weather events well and truly in advance.”

SAPN use various tools and methods, such as daily monitoring of weather, twice-weekly briefings with meteorologists, and specific response levels (Fire Danger Level, Emergency Response Level and Minimum State Demand) to manage and mitigate potential risks.

The ‘weather and network impacts monitoring workflow’ below illustrates the extensive planning, communication and response in the case of an extreme event.

Bushfire seasonal preparations

When it comes to having an electricity network that’s primarily above ground, careful consideration is essential to minimise risks of the equipment starting fires.

Paul explains that when the bushfire season does start, asset inspectors continually assess the asset and look at whether there needs to be greater attention brought to certain areas. This includes the use of drones, helicopters and ground patrols.

We also heard the additional extensive bushfire seasonal preparation that SAPN completes ahead of the season, including:

  • Rectifying any identified bushfire and supply risk defects and ensuring key network projects completed prior to summer
  • Tree trimming
  • Training operational personnel/emergency management exercises
  • Ensuring emergency spare parts in stock
  • Preparing call centre and social media messaging
  • Writing to Life Support Customers, MP’s.

Emergency disconnections during bushfire season

When conditions are deteriorating and not looking to improve, in severe cases, emergency disconnections may be required. Paul explained the degree to which SAPN go to on a fire danger day in getting ready to proactively conduct an emergency disconnection to keep communities safe.

This response follows a Disconnection Procedure Flowchart (pictured below), where Paul explained the steps that are followed, including:

  • Continually assessing and monitoring reports, network activity, damage reports, weather reports and more
  • If a situation is verified to the appropriate Fire Danger Level which requires disconnection, a specialist group is formed called the Disconnection Order Group
  • The Disconnection Order group has various different components across the business, all the way from where Paul sits, in the customer and community space, through to network field services, logistics and more
  • They report directly to an Operations Director where they will make a recommendation after discussing with the CFS whether to disconnect and then seek authorised approval. This approval must come from SAPN’s CEO.

Keeping the community informed at every stage

SAPN engages in proactive communication with customers when forecasts indicate significant Emergency Response Level or Fire Danger Level conditions. This includes reaching out to Life Support Customers, MPs, nursing homes and other major customers, to inform them of preparations for extreme weather events.

Paul went on to explain that social media is a critical platform to spread messages during events, especially since the statewide blackout South Australia experienced in 2016. During this event, they saw an increase in Facebook followers who helped share posts and pictures. Social media continues to remain engaging with their community since.

They also utilise SMS as Paul explains “We’ve got automated systems that just immediately send out SMS messages to customers soon as we know a part of the network is off, either that we can see it remotely or that customers call us about it.”

This two-way communication with their customers is essential to see a full picture of what’s happening on the ground and let their customers that they are listening and acting to ensure they remain safe.

In major events, SAPN deliver targeted, bespoke messaging to localised groups of customers regarding restoration times.

During bushfires, communications can be quite different to usual. Paul states that, “we sort of broke that up where we twice a day we’ll go out to customers in the middle of the day at the end of the day to say this is how far we’ve got with our reconnections and your area is coming up next in the following day and again that that gathers kudos from customers.”

Paul highlights the importance of communicating to customers and communities, stating that “We do as much as we can to make sure that we are preparing and informing the community [about] what we’re doing to prepare … and advising them on what they need to do when there is a bushfire.”

Session resources 

About the speaker

Head of Customer Service at SA Power Networks, Paul Erwin has three decades of experience in the energy sector and wealth of knowledge on driving better customer outcomes in the energy sector.

He’s a seasoned member of SAPNs emergency response team, having been involved in numerous incident responses, including for bushfires, floods events and severe storms. Paul is passionate about better protections for customers in vulnerable circumstances and ensuring businesses put their efforts toward the actions that matter most to customers.

In his time at SAPN, Paul has managed teams across customer, community and retailer relations. He also has an M.B.A and Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from the University of South Australia, and is Graduate of the University of Adelaide’s Professional Management program.

About this event

This event is part of the Energy Charter’s Resilience Community of Practice dedicated to helping customers and communities better prepare, respond and recover from disaster events.

Every second month, the Energy Charter host a Community of Practice, including expert-led discussions building on the topics covered in the Energy Charter’s Disaster Response Playbook. Learn more about the Resilience Community of Practice.

November 2023 News Update

In the November 2023 News Update, CEO Council Chair, Guy Chalkley shares share strategic highlights from the annual Energy Charter Disclosures as well as future priorities for collaboration for customers and communities for the year ahead. 

We also provide an update to the #BetterTogether Evaluating Transmission Undergrounding initiative with the survey now live to help understand community perspectives on decision-making about new transmission lines. 

You can also register for the CEO Forum in December: Charting a Better Energy Future as well as find a list of all other upcoming events.

Resilience Community of Practice – Preparedness, Disruptions and Impact

Community of Practice – Resilience

Compelling narratives to showcase the power of resilience in action

In September, the Resilience Community of Practice explored how forward-thinking organisations:

  • Proactively prepare for disruptive events
  • The challenges of around real disruptions and how they can be overcome
  • The critical role that resilience and preparedness play in mitigating customer impacts.

Speaker Fiona Dunk, Group Manager, Business Resilience for Signatory Jemena unravelled the compelling narratives to showcase the power of resilience in action.

As a starting point, Fiona pointed to the preparedness as the foundation of proactive Resilience noting that,

“In the face of uncertainty, preparedness is the compass that guides us through the storm.”

She highlighted that preparing well is the ability to recognise precedence, have strong situational awareness and foresight,

“We can’t rely on the playbook from last year – we need to prepare for this year.”

Preparedness is also about never loosing site of the opportunity to capture and implement lessons learnt. Every disruptive event offers an opportunity to learn and improve.

Resilience blog Oct 2023 - Learn from experience

Regardless of the type of disruption, Fiona encourages a focus on community-centred resilience to achieve better outcomes for those impacted.

In simple terms, this means:

  • Providing empathetic and proactive customer service during disruptions to maintain trust
  • Rallying communities to support each other to minimise hardship during disruptions
  • Prioritise the needs of vulnerable customers during disruptions through outreach and assistance.

Part of this respecting and empowering your connections,

“Communities have vast resources and capacity to empower their people and respond to emergencies when you enable collective action. Provide the space and respect local partners.”

Key takeaways

  • Preparedness is the foundation
  • Disruptions are inevitable
  • Community-centric focus matters
  • Learn lessons for the future
  • We are always, #BetterTogether.

Participant reflections

Following the presentation participants reflected on the below question and encouraged others to do the same with colleagues:

  • Where are you getting your foresight for this year’s risks and what are you putting in place to share and prepare?
  • Supporting responder mental health through disaster is essential, how are you preparing to manage fatigue in teams, especially considering cumulative and compounding events are becoming more frequent?
  • Coming into a potentially very difficult year weather-wise, how are you working with your Board and Leadership to drive Resilience outcomes now. What do you have in place to track customer and community outcomes?
  • What do your simulations/preparedness events look like and how can you bring in other parties to ensure preparedness at a collaborative level?
  • In the context of resilience, what do you do in practice to create psychologically safe spaces for teams and communities?
  • How do you hear from communities on what they need from you? How are you brining these voices into your decision making now and in-disaster? 

Session resources 

About our speaker

Fiona Dunk has more than 30 years of experience in Crisis & Emergency Management, Security and Resilience most recently as the Group Manager, Business Resilience for Jemena.

Fiona holds a Masters Degree in Business Technology from the University of New South Wales and has held roles in the Royal Australian Navy, Marine Safety Management, Port Emergency & Security Management, Crisis/Emergency management Consultancy and Project Management. 

About this event

This event is part of the Energy Charter’s Resilience Community of Practice dedicated to helping customers and communities better prepare, respond and recover from disaster events. 

Every second month, the Energy Charter host a Community of Practice, including expert-led discussions building on the topics covered in the Energy Charter’s Disaster Response Playbook:

  1. Communication and Education – where do communities get information, how is it delivered and who needs to know? This includes sharing learnings on successful communication and education campaigns as an essential aspect of disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
  2. Coordination and Collaboration – what are the opportunities to better work together across the energy sector and within the broader eco-system? This includes better practice case studies on successful collaboration.
  3. Planning and Preparedness – what is our role in building community and individual capacity to plan and prepare for a disaster? This includes opportunities to build resilience ownership and literacy within communities, so they can better respond in a disaster.
  4. Learning loops – It’s essential to share back to enable continuous improvement. This includes sharing insights from recent disaster events and building a resilience learning library.
Learn more on the dedicated Resilience Community of Practice page here.

Register for the Energy Charter CEO Forum – Charting a Better Energy Future!

Join our panel of Energy Charter CEOs from across the nation on 6 December 2023 for our CEO Forum: Charting a Better Energy Future, hosted by Cath Smith, Chair of the End-User Consultative Group for the release of the Energy Charter Annual Disclosure 2023.

About the CEO Forum

Together we will review and reflect on the collective achievements for customers and communities through the #BetterTogether initiatives in response to our priority areas: cost-of-living crisis and energy transition.

We’ll also dive into the critical role of authentic accountability and transparency in enabling continuous improvement, as well as focus on the future opportunities to continue building towards creating a better energy future for all Australians.

We look forward to your engagement and participation in this CEO Forum to help shape better outcomes for customers and communities today, and into the future, as we transition to a more sustainable, reliable and affordable energy future.

Introducing the host + panellists

Community of Practice – Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch

Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch

In our October Know Your Customers + Communities – Community of Practice, we heard firsthand from financial counsellors across Australia about how customers are managing the cost-of-living crisis specifically their energy and water bills.

Firsthand insights into the cost-of-living crisis with Financial Counselling Australia (FCA)

Leading the discussion was Fiona Guthrie, the CEO of Financial Counselling Australia (FCA), the national voice for the financial counselling profession in Australia.

To gain insights into cost-of-living crisis across the country, the panelists included:

  • From NSW: Vanessa Emergy, Financial Counsellor and Team Leader at Wesley Mission NSW, who represents FCA on the Australian Energy Regulator Consumer Consultative Group
  • From QLD: Rose McGrath, Financial Counsellor at YFS QLD
  • From Tasmania: Danielle Slade, Financial Counsellor at Anglicare TAS and President of the Financial Counsellors Association Tasmania
  • From Victoria: Andrea Osborne, Financial Counsellor at Uniting VIC as well as participates in the Utilities Working Group for FCA.

What does a Financial Counsellor do?

Financial counselling is a free service run by not-for-profits, offering information, options and support in regard to debts. 

One of the key benefits of a financial counsellor is they can provide information on benefits, concessions and entitlements including “concessions regarding energy, which is particularly important these days because a lot of people don’t know what they’re entitled to.”

A lot of financial counsellors are also trained in counselling and can offer emotional support.

“We provide information so customers can make informed choices and decisions and have ownership of their own situation. We don’t want to be telling them what they have to do, we want to give them the information so they can make decisions for themselves. It’s really important that they have control of their situation.”

To learn more, watch the short video where Andrea Osborne explains the wide range of services a financial counsellor can provide.

What are customers experiencing when it comes to energy and water costs?

Taking the time to listen to what financial counsellors are learning from their casework can offer valuable insight into the financial challenges people are facing. Below, the panel explores what they’re seeing firsthand when it comes to why customers are not able to pay their energy and water bills.

The gap between energy and other life essentials

Danielle Slade, who works for the National Debt Helpline 5 days a week, explains that “the biggest thing we’ve seen is extraordinarily large debts,” where in some cases, people can barely cover their current usage let alone also contribute towards old energy bills.

Danielle continued on to provide insight into the essentials that help create a comfortable life, including:

  1. Rent or housing
  2. Food
  3. Transport
  4. Medications
  5. Telecommunications
  6. Power

“I say power last because [in the eyes of the customer], that’s the only bill this fortnight that I can skip if I just don’t have enough money. If I don’t pay my rent, I get evicted. I have to eat. I can’t walk my children to school if it takes us 2 hours to get there. I can’t not take medication. So, the only thing that’s left that I can skip this fortnight is power. So, a lot of people leave it to that 3 month bill and then we get a debt that’s just so unmanageable.”

The link to housing and water costs

There has also been recent casework where customers are struggling to pay their water bills.

Rose McGrath explained, “For renters, they pay the landlords directly. They don’t have a direct billing relationship with the water company or with the council. So, water arrears are very much tied up with rent arrears and because rents have increased so much, people are really struggling to pay their water and rent. As a result, partly, they are being evicted for non-payment of their water.”

Rose goes on to explain that in some cases, there is such high demand for rental subsidies and rental arrears, it takes up to 2 months for people to receive them where they can be evicted within that time.

“With water, there are no hardship provisions like there is in energy. There is no hardship framework and there’s no concessions for renters.”

What can the energy sector do to help with the cost-of-living crunch?

When it comes to supporting customers with their energy and water bills, the panel provided insight into what’s currently working and what could be improved to help customers regain control of their financial situation.

  • Continue educating customers on ways to reduce their power bills, where Andrea mentions that once customers are given this information, “12-24 months down the track, we had observed their energy bills and they dropped hundreds [of dollars]. Just a bit of information and they were able to change their ways and reduce their bills.”
  • Continue energy audits for vulnerable customers as well as further to current government initiatives, there could be potential to replace faulty appliances causing higher energy bills.
  • More reference to the National Debt Helpline to ensure customers know where to go for financial help (for example, as shown in the Keep the money. It’s yours. National concessions campaign).
  • Matched payments, where possible, as Danielle explained that customers start to think “the energy provider is going to help me pay off my debt?” which helps to shift the mentality to ‘we’re in this together’ (acknowledging this may not be the case for all retailers).
  • Potential to introduce debt waivers, including an automatic debt waiver when there’s family violence.
Want to watch the full recording of ‘Stories from the frontline of the cost-of-living crunch’ session?

Listen to the full session to gain further insight into what financial counsellors are seeing in their casework and the impacts the cost-of-living crisis is having on their energy and water bills.

About this event 

This event was part of the Know Your Customers + Communities – Community of Practice dedicated to building capability around robust and fit-for-purpose customer, community, and stakeholder engagement, and building organisational cultures that value the customer voice in decision making. 

Know Your Customers + Communities is a collaboration with between the Energy Charter and Water Services Association of Australia under our Collaboration Memo of Understanding (MoU). 

To become a regular member of this Community of Practice, please contact Bec Jolly, Director Collaboration  bec.jolly@theenergycharter.com.au. 

The story of energy – An artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove

The story of energy - An artwork is by Ngarrindjeri artist, Jordan Lovegrove

More about the art and the artist, Jordan Lovegrove…

Jordan Lovegrove

Jordan is a Ngarrindjeri visual storyteller and artist known for his captivating contemporary and abstract art. You can see more of his work here.

With 12 years of experience, Jordan has developed a vibrant and dynamic style, drawing inspiration from his Ngarrindjeri heritage, his artwork showcases cultural symbolism and a unique artistic vision.

Alongside his art, Jordan is also skilled in graphic design, specializing in creating visually appealing reports, Reconciliation Action plans, logos & branding. He seamlessly blends traditional and modern techniques to produce visually stunning and contemporary designs.

The artwork by Jordan produced for the Energy Charter tells the story of energy, how it connects all of Australia and the Energy Charter’s commitment to create a better energy future for all Australians.

The centrepiece of the artwork represents the Energy Charter’s five core principles dedicated to better outcomes for customers and their communities. 

TEC579 Artwork Final-09

The three coloured sections and symbols represent the transition to a cleaner future; blue is hydro, orange is solar, and green is wind.

TEC579 Artwork Final-13
TEC579 Artwork Final-16
TEC579 Artwork Final-12

The meeting places around the outside and pathways that connects them represents like-minded energy organisations across Australia collaborating and connecting people together for the betterment of communities.

These communities are represented by the pattern on the inside of the artwork.

Jordan was brought to us by Ochre Dawn, a 100% Australian Aboriginal owned and Supply Nation Certified, company. Company founder and proud Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri woman, Rebecca Wessels, explains…

“As Aboriginal people, we are natural storytellers – it’s part of our makeup. As an Aboriginal-owned branding and marketing company, storytelling is our business”.

Ochre Dawn helps others to tell their story in visually captivating ways. They do this by being the hands that write, that paint, that create; being the minds that ideate, being the voices that declare true identities and unleash a truly Australian existence.

For more information visit their website www.ochredawn.com.au.