Energy affordability remains an ongoing challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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