Original media release by the ACCC (30/11/2023).
The ACCC has granted authorisation for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and electricity industry participants in the National Electricity Market to coordinate the scheduling of repairs, maintenance, renewals upgrades and new connections and associated information sharing.
The ACCC recognises the challenges in managing the National Electricity Market during the ongoing transition to renewable electricity generation. The ACCC also notes that there is a suite of reforms, including some that have been recently implemented and others currently under consideration, aimed at assisting AEMO manage the scheduling of outages during the transition to renewable electricity generation.
“The proposed coordination will increase AEMO’s ability to manage the scheduling of outages, providing greater security for the supply of electricity over the next two summer periods, which are forecast to be challenging,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
Due to concerns that this kind of coordination and information sharing between competitors can reduce competition in the supply of electricity and the acquisition of maintenance services as well as create information disparities within the broader electricity market, the ACCC has imposed a series of conditions for this authorisation.
“With transparency and reporting conditions, we are satisfied that the proposed coordination is likely to result in public benefits that would outweigh the likely harm to competition,” Mr Keogh said.
Following the ACCC’s draft determination proposing not to grant authorisation in October 2023, AEMO provided further information in support of its public benefit claims and reduced the period for which it seeks authorisation. The ACCC also received submissions from industry participants and state energy departments in support of the application and the public benefits.
More information is available on the ACCC 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.
Since 2020, the ACCC has authorised broader coordination arrangements for AEMO and industry participants on a number of occasions. Initially, these were to respond to issues arising from the impact of COVID-19. More recently, in November 2022, authorisation was granted to allow industry coordination to reduce the risk of major outages during a crisis. That authorisation expired on 30 April 2023.
The ACCC understands that the AEMO is considering longer term, regulatory based solutions to better equip it to manage outages during the transition to renewables.
Broadly, the ACCC may grant authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment.