AusNet Services seeks customers’ views on network plans

conference

In an Australian first, customer representatives have been directly involved in developing AusNet Services’ regulatory proposal, resulting in a range of benefits to customers, including easier and faster processes and more affordable services, with the average bill set to fall by $110.

AusNet Services has published its Regulatory Proposal setting out its plans for the delivery of electricity distribution services for the period July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2026.

The regulatory proposal reflects the outcomes of our Australian-first trial, the Customer Forum, to involve customer representatives directly in developing AusNet Services’ plans.

The Customer Forum, led by the former Consumer Affairs Minister for Victoria Tony Robinson, comprises highly-skilled, qualified individuals appointed to formally represent the perspectives of AusNet Services’ customers. The trial was oversighted by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Energy Consumers Australia and Energy Networks Australia under the ‘NewReg’ approach to electricity network regulation.

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By engaging more extensively than ever before with customers, and working with the Customer Forum, AusNet Services has reflected their needs and expectations by:

  • Making services more affordable: the average bill will fall by $110 or 12 per cent from December 2020 to July 2021, and then will only increase in line with inflation ($48 for an average residential customer, $627 for an average business customer). Rural customers set to benefit from the cancellation of remote connection and disconnection charges, saving customers $750 each year.
  • Improving customer communication and processes: AusNet Services has streamlined its claims process to enable easier access by customers. It has introduced a solar connections tool, allowing more customers to connect faster. The number of simple residential solar connections that can be self-assessed and automatically approved has increased from less than 40 per cent to more than 90 per cent. There is also broad support for our proposed incentive scheme to encourage better customer service.
  • Maintaining reliability and safety: Customers have made it clear that they don’t want these compromised.
  • Supporting customers’ rooftop solar investments: AusNet Services is proposing to allow more solar exports onto the network in line with customer expectations – using technology and targeted investment to keep the costs down.
  • Innovating to support the energy future: Modest innovation expenditure is proposed to support the energy transition, particularly household and business investment in solar and batteries, and spread benefits to all customers.
  • Using smart meters to benefit customers: Working with the Customer Forum, AusNet Services has identified more ways to use this existing technology to benefit customers.

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Importantly, AusNet Services is continuing to deliver on its bushfire safety program previously agreed with the Victorian Government. It is installing technology (REFCLs) that rapidly cuts the power to fallen lines, preventing bushfires. Nine REFCLs are already operating and successfully reducing bushfire risk for customers. This has provided peace of mind while we are dealing with the unprecedented fires in its network.

“This Proposal responds to our customers’ desire for affordable services, continuing reliable and safe electricity supply, improvements in how they experience our services and support for customers’ use of solar and other technologies,” AusNet Services managing director Tony Narvaez said.

Chairman of the Customer Forum Tony Robinson said, “The Customer Forum acknowledges AusNet Services’ genuine commitment to better understand and respond to the needs of our customers. We hope that our input into the EDPR process will ensure AusNet Services’ customers are better served and that their expectations are more closely aligned to plans for the network.”