The Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council’s (ECMC) will progress work on a proposed package of Game Changer reforms that will deliver significant improvements in outcomes for energy consumers experiencing vulnerability.
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After calling for sector-wide reforms in 2022, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) brought together leaders from industry, government, market bodies, ombudsman schemes and consumer advocates to develop the package that was presented to energy ministers at a meeting on November 24.
Under the comprehensive package, consumers would receive concessions they are entitled to and those in hardship would receive their retailer’s best offer to help them lower their bills.
Financial counselling would be readily available to assist customers experiencing vulnerability and debt relief would be available for customers who are genuinely unable to pay and fall behind on their payments.
Energy efficiency assistance would also be more accessible and retailers who can demonstrate that they are providing best-practice support for customers would be able to access a shared funding pool to deliver the debt relief and energy efficiency elements of the package.
AER chair Clare Savage thanked the ECMC for its commitment to further progress the proposed reforms and the Game changer Leadership and Design Groups for their ongoing collaboration.
“Energy is an essential service, so it’s important that we think differently about how we can approach and overcome energy hardship, vulnerability and the persistent challenges faced by consumers in the sector.
“The Game Changer package of reforms presented to energy ministers today is the culmination of 20 months of hard work by stakeholders across the sector.
“We thank all of these stakeholders for their dedication to and belief in developing a new way to address energy hardship, and we look forward to working with the ECMC as it considers the proposed reforms.”
The Australian Government will lead work with other jurisdictions to take the Game changer package forward for further analysis, consultation, and detailed policy development.
The news was welcomed by the Clean Energy Council, which said in a statement, “Friday’s meeting of the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council (ECMC) demonstrated unity and strength of intention among Commonwealth, state and territory governments to cooperate in progressing Australia’s clean energy transformation, and getting the country back on track towards reaching 82% renewables by 2030.
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“An agreement among Ministers to work together in negotiating bilateral Renewable Energy Transformation Agreements (RETAs) under the National Energy Transformation Partnership (NETP) looks set to accelerate progress among jurisdictions towards an orderly exit of ageing coal-fired power stations, and addressing common issues affecting development of more renewables projects.”