The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has just released its list of enforcement priorities for the upcoming year. Below we set out those priorities and what retailers need do in order to ensure compliance.

  1. Ensuring that customers in financial difficulty receive the required assistance, with a focus on the new AER Hardship Guideline

Regulators have expressed concern over the last few years about the lack of support available to customers that are experiencing payment difficulties/financial hardship. For example, the AER Annual Report on Compliance and Performance of the Retail Energy Market 2017-2018 showed that a decreasing proportion of customers are successfully exiting hardship programs: 27 per cent went down to 22 per cent for electricity and 18 per cent went down to 17 per cent in Gas. This includes a significant increase in number of customers who have exited due to exclusion by the retailer (57 per cent to 64 for Electricity, 66 to 72 per cent for gas).

The New AER Customer Hardship Policy Guideline which came into force on the 2 April 2019 adds clarity to the obligations of retailers with respect to customers in financial hardship and is accompanied with strict penalties for non-compliance.

What you need to do:

  • Ensure that staff have been trained to deal with customers who are or may be experiencing financial difficulties in accordance with the Hardship Guideline; and
  • Ensure that customers are aware of your Hardship Program and what it means for them.
  1. Ensuring that customers using life support equipment are protected, with a focus on the new life support rules

New Life Support Arrangements came into force on 1 February 2019, updating the registration process for any premises where a customer with life support resides. It includes a new process for registration, medical confirmation, de-registration and obligations to share information with other parties (such as distributors).

What you need to do:

  • Ensure that you have a compliant registration and de-registration process in place, noting that premises need to be registered immediately as having life support needs, upon notification;
  • Ensure disconnection processes are aligned with your life support obligations; and
  • Ensure your processes for interrupting electricity supply are compliant.
  1. The provision of accurate and timely information:
    1. to AEMO which is critical to ensuring power system security and / or the efficient outcomes in or effective operation of wholesale energy markets; and
    2. to the AER which is critical to the performance of the AER’s economic or market monitoring functions.

What you need to do:

  • Ensure that your compliance and performance reporting practices to the AER and Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) are compliant;
  • Ensure that you are aware of all the different reporting requirements that apply to your type of business. This may include reporting to state energy regulators such as the Queensland Competition Authority, the New South Wales Independent Regulatory and Pricing Tribunal or the Victorian Essential Services Commission or national bodies such as the Clean Energy Council.
  1. Support the transition to metering contestability to ensure consumer and market benefits are delivered

From February 1 2019, new timeframes of the installation of metering came into effect. These new timeframes apply where a new or upgraded connection to the distribution network is established and where a meter is replaced by a metering co-ordinator due to malfunction.

What you need to do:

  • Ensure that customer retail contracts are compliant with the new timeframes; and
  • Ensure that notification requirements for metering installation timeframes, including notification on the retailer’s website, are complied with.
  1. Implementation of capacity trading markets under the East Coast Gas Reforms and improving gas market transparency through strengthening the Gas Bulletin Board.

On 1 March 2019 a new way of trading gas pipeline capacity began.  This change, resulting from 2016 law reforms, means:

  • users of transmission pipelines can trade pipeline capacity on an electronic trading platform operated by AEMO;
  • users of transmission pipelines can access certain transmission pipeline capacity that is not going to be used the next day through a daily auction;
  • transmission capacity contracts are partially standardised; and
  • a compulsory reporting framework for capacity trades.

What you need to do:

  • Market Participants should ensure that they are compliant with the new reporting framework; and
  • Market Participants should ensure that capacity contracts are compliant.

 

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