Original media release from the ACCC (13/07/2023).
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has granted interim authorisation for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and electricity industry participants in the National Electricity Market to collaborate to ensure reliability of electricity supply during Australia’s transition towards renewable electricity.
“Interim authorisation will allow electricity industry participants to coordinate the scheduling of repairs, maintenance, renewals, upgrades and new connections and share certain information to help minimise possible disruptions to electricity supply,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
Without authorisation from the ACCC, these coordinated arrangements could risk breaching competition laws.
The ACCC recognises that AEMO faces challenges in managing system security and ensuring the reliable supply of electricity as the National Electricity Market undergoes a transition from large scale thermal coal and gas generation to a mix of diversified renewable generation.
“The ACCC has imposed strict conditions on the interim authorisation, including that AEMO report monthly on any measures taken or agreements reached between participants while their application is considered more closely,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
More information is available on the ACCC’s website.
AEMO is the independent market and system operator for gas and electricity systems across Australia, including the National Electricity Market. Its members include both government and industry participants.
There are a number of broader reforms that are currently being considered for the National Electricity Market to ensure that the relevant regulatory and market frameworks continue to meet the needs of the system into the future. The ACCC, as part of its substantive assessment, will seek input from relevant market bodies to better understand the impact that these reforms are likely to have on the ability of the electricity industry to manage challenges arising out of the transition.
ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
Section 91 of the Act allows the ACCC to grant interim authorisation when it considers it is appropriate. This allows the parties to engage in the proposed conduct while the ACCC is considering the merits of the substantive application.
The ACCC may review a decision on interim authorisation at any time, including in response to feedback raised following interim authorisation.
Since 2020, the ACCC has authorised broader coordination arrangements for the AEMO and industry participants to respond to issues arising from the impact of COVID-19. More recently, in November 2022, authorisation was granted to allow industry coordination to respond to the energy crisis at that time. That authorisation expired on 30 April 2023.