How customers are shaping our future energy network

Woman removes grocery bag from car while young boy charges it using EV charger
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By Renate Vogt, General Manager, Regulation, CitiPower and Powercor

It’s fair to say the energy sector has seen seismic changes since I joined CitiPower and Powercor 16 years ago.

We are witnessing a changing climate, a rise in renewable energy, more and more customers generating and storing their own electricity, and increasing electrification of our homes, industries and transport.

As we continue to shape our plans at CitiPower and Powercor for the next five-year period, engaging with our customers and stakeholders is critical to ensure those plans address customers’ current needs as well as their needs into the future.

Related article: Reports show Victorians want equitable access to renewables

Historically, distributors have depended on formulaic calculations about historical energy consumption and used this to predict future demand.

As we enter the ‘home straight’ of our engagement journey—the most extensive and rigorous we’ve ever undertaken—I have been reflecting on how different this planning cycle has been, driven by the magnitude of the once-in-a-generation energy transition that is underway.

We know that such a major transition poses risks that some may get left behind, so for our 2026-2031 plans we have prioritised innovative and unique engagement methods to reach a broad representation of our customers and stakeholders.

Our goal is to create a compelling vision of reliability and affordability for our customers and stakeholders that paves the way for a future beyond the immediate reset period—and we can only do that with their input.

This reset period has seen us undertake comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research, an iterative feedback loop with customers and stakeholders to ensure our approach evolves as we go, and sharing updates about how the input we’re receiving is shaping our network strategies and investments.

Overwhelmingly, customers are telling us that a resilient and reliable electricity network that can withstand the effects of climate change is a top priority.

Citipower and Powercor general manager regulation Renate Vogt talking to focus group (victorians reports)
Citipower and Powercor general manager regulation Renate Vogt

We recently asked Powercor customers how much they would be willing to pay for different network improvements—a first for an energy distributor. The value that customers placed on improving network resilience was over $86/kWh.

Customers also quantified the value of improving reliability for the worst-served communities as $71.26/kWh. What this all tells us is that customers are willing to pay for improvements that will benefit everyone.

We’ve also targeted hard-to-reach customers as well as voices from across the range of metropolitan and rural customers and businesses that are part of our network to ensure that every voice is heard and considered—from dairy farmers to EV enthusiasts, and those who advocate for vulnerable customers. By subjecting our proposals to diverse perspectives, we are ensuring they withstand scrutiny and that no one is left behind.

The recent Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner’s Community Engagement Review emphasised the need for more meaningful interaction between the energy sector and communities being impacted by the transition, and the necessity and value of engagement. I support this and would encourage not only the industry but regulators to also engage with the communities they serve.

This year we will continue targeting engagements with key stakeholders and customer groups, through in-depth discussions and seeking feedback on proposed solutions to the specific themes that have been identified through earlier engagement. We will also test these proposed solutions associated costs and benefits with our customers.

Related article: Microgrids for three towns part of Powercor resilience plan

While we will no doubt need to make some tough decisions on what we will need to prioritise, particularly against the backdrop of current cost-of-living pressures, through robust consultation we can ensure everyone has a hand in shaping the future of the energy network. We thank everyone who has participated so far in our many engagement activities and events, and for helping us shape our approach.

The input we’re capturing will inform what the energy sector, specifically electricity distributors like us, need to do to ensure our plans reflect real-world demands, changing conditions and the ability to power the future.

Together, we can shape a future that reflects the diverse lifestyles and needs of our customers and is adaptive to our evolving environment.

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