Energy is an essential service and with increased costs has become a financial burden on growing numbers of households and consumers in Australia. Uniting Care is concerned for these people and advocates strongly for appropriate energy regulation. Anecdotal evidence from our work with communities nationally, indicates utilities are one of the top three issues facing households.
We strongly support the intent of the confidentiality guideline (which ensures that all stakeholders have access to as much information as is possible to enable sound regulatory decisions to be made for network regulatory determinations.)
Uniting Care Australia wishes to commend the AER on the thorough work that has been undertaken in developing this guideline. We recognise the importance of high quality data that is relevant and applicable to network regulation as a basis for developing sound regulatory practice with good outcomes for businesses and for consumers.
Stewardship of our environment is a fundamental responsibility of societies both in the short-term and for the benefit of future generations. We strongly support the notion of the triple bottom line for government community and business organisations whereby economic stewardship, environmental stewardship and the nurture of citizens (social stewardship) are equally valued and reported on publicly.
Apart from fixing some nomenclature issues, a revision of the Act is needed to ensure it correctly articulates the new and changed commitments made by the Australian Government in the Living Longer Living Better package of aged care reforms, and the different context for provision of aged care services as a result of these changes.
The White Paper should recognise and describe energy as an essential service.
The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) makes and amends the rules about how the electricity market operates. In considering changes to rules, the AEMC looks at how well it will contribute to the National Electricity Objective, that is “to promote efficient investment in, and efficient operation and use of, electricity services for the long-term interests of consumers of electricity with respect to:
(a) price, quality, safety, reliability, and security of supply of electricity; and
(b) the reliability, safety and security of the national electricity system.”
The current meaning of charity and charitable purpose is largely defined at common law, which has developed over 400 years. It has generally served the community well however a number of reviews and inquiries over the years have recommended that the common law meaning of charity be restated in legislation.
The Major Energy Users Inc (MEU) proposed a rule change to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in November 2010 in relation to the “potential exercise of market power by generators in the National Electricity Market (NEM).” The MEU represents some 20 large energy using companies across the NEM and in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, including iron and steel, cement, aluminium and mining industries. The rule change was suggested to address the potential for generators to raise average wholesale electricity prices by more than necessary to recoup their long-term costs. The problem with this kind of power in the marketplace it is can create a ‘barrier to entry’ for new and smaller generators. The AEMC released a directions paper in September 2011 with a very strong focus on defining what ‘substantive market power’ means in the context of the market.
The purpose of a hardship policy is to assist customers who are struggling to pay their energy bills due to financial distress or hardship to better manage their current and future energy bills. The proposed Retail Law sets out minimum requirements for retailers’ customer hardship policies including ways to identify customers experiencing hardship, early response, flexible payment options, identifying suitable concessions and other programs. The AER now monitors and reports on how the retail companies perform in managing hardship. However, the AER needs indicators to measure these outcomes against.