Speech by Commissioner and Acting Chairperson Kate Symons, delivered on 27 August 2019 at our energy forum in Melbourne.
Today, we are talking about many areas of energy reform from how to make energy contracts clear and fair - to modernising the Electricity Distribution Code, from data collection for monitoring compliance to testing options for the Victorian Default Offer reset in January. We will also be presenting updates on changes to the energy retail code to better support customers experiencing family violence and the results of our It’s your Energy information campaign.
Despite the variety of what we’re talking about here today, there is one common thread – they are all about addressing the shortcomings of the market which have, and continue to lead to poor outcomes for Victorian consumers.
Today, also marks a step forward in our ongoing efforts to improve and enhance our engagement with the sector, and the community, to ensure our decisions and our regulatory activity is firmly grounded in intelligence and experience from the real world.
Submissions on an issues paper we released in June on this work are currently being worked through with a draft decision due next month. Today, Aaron will be talking you through the feedback we’ve had to date.
After that, our new manager of Analysis and Reporting Anna and Nick will be sharing proposed changes to existing reporting measures designed to check compliance with the new energy rules which commenced this year.
After morning tea, Dean and Jordan from the price monitoring and regulation team will be working through our proposed approaches to setting the Victorian Default Offer maximum compliant bill, and forecasting wholesale electricity prices.
We will then present briefly on the results of our Its your Energy information campaign.
Today, is all about the customer – making the market work better for the customer - with the ultimate goal of rebuilding trust in the market.
As various reviews have shown in recent years, customer trust that the energy market is ‘working for them’ is extremely low.
The latest consumer sentiment survey from Energy Consumers Australia released in June found ‘overall confidence that the market is working in consumers’ interests’ is at just 30 per cent in Victoria. While this is a slight improvement on last year – it’s certainly startling to consider that fewer than three in 10 consumers believe the market is working for them.
Similar to other reviews, it found the benefits promised when competition was implemented in Victoria have not been realised.
It found that the market has become so complex that even motivated customers were easily confused, and that this was eroding trust and confidence.
This core finding lead to 29 recommendations with about half of these being referred to the commission - as the state’s independent economic regulator - for implementation.
This included most of the projects we are working on today including recommendation 4 for ‘fair and clear contracts’, the Victorian Default Offer, and the general review of our regulatory codes to ensure they focus on customer outcomes.
Which brings me to my next point – that to do this effectively – to rebuild consumer trust in the market, our work needs to be well informed.
As some of you will know, just over a year ago the commission rewrote its Charter of Consultation and Regulatory Practice – turning it into a more robust stakeholder engagement framework.
We updated the standards to reflect five key principles designed to ensure you – our stakeholders – and the wider community could contribute meaningfully to our work.
Our new framework is built on the belief that engaging with stakeholders is essential to our work.
To that end, we’ve made a number of changes over the past year.
We’ve increased transparency and accountability by improving how we communicate.
We’ve established new requirements for projects and programs to ensure our engagement is multi-faceted and meaningful.
We’ve created new templates to ensure our engagement is considered, planned and genuine.
We’ve embraced plain English standards to ensure our information is clear, accessible and simple to understand.
And we’ve established an internal community of practice to ensure we listen and learn to improve our consultation and engagement.
I am hopeful that you’ve experienced the results of some of those positive changes. But we are not there yet.
Today is yet another step forward in our ongoing efforts to improve how we engage with the energy sector and the community.
When the energy team was looking at its forward planning in early July, we realised that no fewer than six different project teams would be looking to hold sessions with stakeholders during August.
And they realised that inviting you to up to six sessions of two to three hours each in one month was going to be a very big impost on your time.
And that would very likely mean many of you would have to pick and choose which sessions to attend and which to miss.
So, we decided to try something new for energy and bring you all together for one day to cover all that ground.
What we hope is that it will give you all a chance to contribute to all the work we are doing in a meaningful way – without having to leave the office six times to do so.
Having said that, please be aware that today is not your only chance to contribute to these projects.