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Energy Dispatch 4

 Summer is here, the bells of Santa's sleigh are ringing and 2017 draws to a close. And what a year it has been, not only for the Australian Energy Regulator, but the sector as a whole. This year has seen enormous change occur at a rapid pace, and we have continued our work to ensure Australian energy consumers are better off now, and in the future.

We'd like to thank all our stakeholders, from the largest businesses to interested individuals who have contacted us, that we worked with over the year. There's been a huge amount of great work done in the sector in 2017 - with more to come in 2018! 

Annual report on retail market

We released our Annual Report on Compliance and Performance of the Retail Energy Market 2016-17 in November.

Key among the findings of the report were increased numbers of electricity disconnections, higher levels of energy debt held by those customers not in a formal hardship program and fewer customers successfully completing hardship programs than in the previous year.

Launching the report, AER chair Paula Conboy said: "At a time when energy affordability is a serious concern for many Australian households, it is more important than ever that customers have the confidence that the AER is closely monitoring the performance of energy retailers to ensure they are meeting their obligations to customers. This report is one of the ways we provide that confidence".

We have put the industry on notice that retailer hardship programs will be a focus for us in 2018.

Collaborating for the common good

The AER, Energy Networks Australia and Energy Consumers Australia have launched a program of collaboration to explore ways in which we can together improve sector engagement and to identify opportunities for regulatory innovation.

The key aim is to give consumers a greater opportunity to influence the network regulation decisions that have a direct impact on their lives. The overarching vision for the project is that consumer priorities will drive business and regulatory outcomes. Work is underway on an "alternative" regulatory model that provides options for consumers and network businesses who want to have deeper engagement in the development and approval of network proposals.

With the right support consumers can become "counterparty" to a network business to create more balanced and constructive engagement that will lead to better utilisation of and investment in the network to the benefit of consumers.

Five-minute dispatch

All the news you may have missed:
  • The AER released its annual Benchmarking report which found that improvements in productivity by many Australian network businesses should lead to downward pressure on household energy bills.
  • The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council met in Hobart. The key issue for discussion was the National Energy Guarantee.
  • The AER released our Annual Report for 2016-17 detailing our work for the year and performance against targets laid out in the Statement of Intent to the COAG Energy Council and Australian Government.
  • Our popular price comparison site is set for a boost after the Commonwealth Government announced extra funding for improvements to the site.
  • A new demand management incentive scheme was finalised which the AER estimates could see $1bn in investment in demand management initiatives by electricity network businesses over the next five years.
  • The AER's investigation into high prices in the NSW electricity market found short-term fuel issues and longer-term market challenges combined to cause sustained high prices for electricity in Australia's most populous state in 2017.

Plugged in

AER staff gave a range of presentations at events since the last edition of Energy Dispatch. Our Chair Paula Conboy gave a presentation on "Energy and its management in Australia and China" at the Fourth Annual International Conference at the Centre for Asian Business and Economics at Melbourne University.

AER General Manager Wholesale Markets Peter Adams gave a presentation at AEMO's recent Summer Readiness forum setting out expectations for market participants compliance. This is an area we will be monitoring over the summer..

Watts in the pipeline

On 7 February 2018 we will be hosting a lecture to commemorate Dr Gill Owen and her contribution in helping the AER to improve consumer participation in our decisions setting network revenues.

Ms Sharon Darcy, Director of Sustainability First in the United Kingdom, will deliver the keynote address. The theme for the lecture will be on improving consumer participation in utility decision making, particularly given the transformation of the energy sector.

The lecture will be held in Melbourne and attendance is free of charge. All interested stakeholders are invited to attend. Registration details will be provided shortly, but in the meantime, interested parties can contact

Festive greetings

The AER board and staff would like to wish all our stakeholders a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018. We would also like to thank you for working with us through a very busy 2017 to help us achieve our work program.

Please note that the AER will be closed for the Christmas period from midday on Friday 22 December 2017 until Tuesday 2 January 2018.

Staff return to work dates will vary, depending on leave arrangements. We will respond to any queries as soon as practicable.

We are looking forward to a productive 2018.

Happy holidays!

Copyright © *2017 Australian Energy Regulator* All rights reserved.

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