Here is a round-up of some of the latest energy news - reliability standards could cost you; renewables hitting their stride; protection against overblown late payments debated; and retailer hit for disconnecting struggling customers.
Federal and state energy ministers seem to have put some of their differences aside and committed to exploring a new reliability standard for the nation’s challenged electricity network.
But the Australian Industry Group had this warning:
“Ministers should be aware that if they wind up signing a blank cheque for reliability, they will condemn Australians to paying through the nose for surplus generators and transmission lines that will sit idle most of the time.”
South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania are the big winners in the latest Climate Council report.
The report ranks states and territories across a range of renewable energy metrics. It found:
- South Australia generates over half of its electricity from wind and solar and is aiming for net 100% renewable energy in the 2030s.
- The ACT is on track to achieve 100% renewable energy from 1 January 2020, making it just the eighth jurisdiction in the world with a population above 100,000 – and the only one outside of Europe – to achieve 100% renewable electricity.
Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation plan could double the state’s renewable energy capacity, as well as generate local jobs and billions of dollars in investment.
Victoria and Queensland are making the transition to renewable energy.
NSW and Western Australia are the only states without a renewable energy target; the latter has recently been in the news regarding the impact of solar on coal-fired stations.
- The Northern Territory ranks last or near the bottom on most other metrics.
Consumers could be celebrating greater protection from having to pay energy retailers large conditional discounts and fees for not paying a bill on time.
A draft rule change has been proposed by the Minister for Energy to regulate late payments and conditional discounts. It is under consideration by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) – the body that governs energy rules across the eastern states.
Currently, customers who are late paying their bill can be charged far more than the cost incurred.
Queensland Consumers Association’s Ian Jarratt is encouraging people to make a written submission on the AEMC proposal by 16 January 2020.
Energy retailers are required to provide protections to customers in financial difficulty under the National Energy Retail Law and Rules.
But it seems one retailer has wrongfully disconnected customers and is now facing action by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
The AER claims EnergyAustralia failed to maintain and implement its hardship policy and did not offer or apply payment plans to the customers.
“We’re alleging that EnergyAustralia knew these people were in financial hardship and disconnected them anyway,” said AER Chair Clare Savage.
“EnergyAustralia’s alleged failures made these customers’ situations worse by denying them access to the full range of protections to which they were entitled.”
Ms Savage said that robust enforcement of the rules was vital. She has urged people experiencing financial difficulty to reach out for help.
“It can be tough to start a conversation about payment difficulties, and hard to know where to turn for help. If you expect to have trouble paying an upcoming bill, or your debt is mounting, call your retailer. It is their job to help you.”
The AER’s Customer Hardship Policy Guideline came into effect from April 2019.
Last month, retailers were required to implement new policies that provided stronger protections for vulnerable consumers.
“As long as you are in a hardship program and meeting its conditions, you cannot legally be disconnected,” said Ms Savage.