The Energy Charter – The first year in the rear-view mirror

Nevenka Codevelle, Chair of the Industry Working Group
Group Executive Governance, Risk & Legal, APA Group

Wow, what a year it has been!

We kicked off 2019 with the launch of the Energy Charter. The launch was a significant milestone. Not only did it recognise all the effort and hard work of the Industry Working Group and the End User Consultative Group in developing and co-designing the Energy Charter principles and accountability framework, but it also marked the ‘end of the start and the start of the beginning’. We knew then, as we know now, that ultimately the success of the Energy Charter would be judged by improved customer outcomes and not words.

The ‘start of the beginning’ meant putting in place for the first time all the operational aspects of the Energy Charter – the governance structures, the working groups and the accountability panel process. This involved a huge amount of work and a lot of ‘test and learn’ to give life to what was a world first initiative in creating collective accountability for better customer outcomes across an entire industry supply chain. 

Most importantly, it took a lot of trust. Trust not only between the energy industry and consumer and end user groups, but also within the energy industry itself. Conversations were had, and relationships forged and strengthened as we worked towards a common goal.  Those conversations, those relationships and the establishment of the Energy Charter operating rhythm were great achievement in 2019, and provides a strong platform to be leveraged for positive change going forward.

Keen to see real improvements happen quickly, the #BetterTogether framework was established. We ended the year with close to 10 #BetterTogether initiatives prioritised with the help of the End User Consultative Group. They include collaborative initiatives requiring coordination across the supply chain such as network tariff reform, 24/7 connections, improved digital metering and better customer communications in times of outage. The #BetterTogether initiatives embody and bring to life the Energy Charter’s vision of ‘Together, deliver energy for a better Australia’ and will be expanded going forward.

Most significantly, 2019 was the first year signatories reported against the Energy Charter principles. If there’s one word to sum up the reporting process, I would say that it was ‘courage’. Courage to have the difficult conversations within businesses and in the boardroom. And courage in adopting a tone of openness and candour in admitting in the Disclosure Reports and in the publicly recorded CEO interviews, that we can and should do better.

It was also the first year of review and assessment by the Independent Accountability Panel. The Panel’s consultation process was robust, its analysis rigorous, and its findings and recommendations constructive. A special thanks to Dr Wendy Craik as Chair of the Panel and the other Panel members for their courage in taking something on completely new and untested, and their preparedness to be part of the change journey for the energy industry.

As an industry, we now have a tremendous reservoir of good ideas and learnings to take back into our individual businesses. Ideas generated by looking at best practice as disclosed in the reports of our peers, the Independent Accountability Panel findings and recommendations as well as the thoughts, ideas and input from the End User Consultative Group. The challenge for us is to translate those learnings into better customer outcomes, which in turn makes our businesses more robust and sustainable.

Any wrap up of 2019 wouldn’t be complete without calling out the people. Being a change agent is a tough gig and requires both conviction and resilience. The bringing together of a wonderful and supportive community of change agents was absolutely a highlight of 2019.

I have often said that in my career, I aim to work with ‘good people to do great things’. With the Energy Charter, I have had the privilege of working with ‘great people to do amazing things’. Those people include everyone involved – the CEO Council, the Industry Working Group, the End User Consultative Group, Energy Consumers Australia (who played a critical role as host of the Accountability Panel) and the Independent Accountability Panel itself. A special call out to John Cleland (Chair of the CEO Council), Sabiene Heindl (Energy Charter Director) and Rosemary Sinclair (CEO of Energy Consumers Australia) whose wise counsel, support and hard work were invaluable.