With the creation of a National Energy Market, and establishment of the National Electricity and Gas Rules and Law, members of the CFA and other consumer advocates have been working to influence the design of the market, the development of strong consumer protections (the National Energy Customer Framework) and government policy to ensure that consumers are able to participate effectively in the market.
CFA members have been actively engaged in representing consumers in the Distribution Price Reviews which determine the network costs of consumers’ bills. Implementation of the National Energy Law and transfer of powers for retail energy regulation to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is due to follow in July 2012. This transition period is therefore an important one for influencing the approach taken by the AER to compliance and enforcement.
CFA members have also been assessing the best model for ongoing consumer advocacy in the NEM. Consumers are of course the largest group of users in the NEM, but by and large their voice is not heard compared with industry participants. We are particularly concerned about the needs of low income and vulnerable consumers in the midst of significant price increases. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that over the five years to December 2010, electricity prices have risen in Australia by 54% and industry groups are warning of expected prices rises of a further 100% over the next five years. Other issues on the national agenda include scheduled reviews into the effectiveness of competition and a review of distribution reliability standards by the Australian Energy Market Commission.