New Handbook to raise the voice of energy customers

Energy networks are pursuing a revolution in the customer relationship that is as dramatic as changes in the energy system itself, Energy Networks Association (ENA) CEO John Bradley said.

The ENA and CSIRO have released the Customer Engagement Handbook – the first major work from the Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap project for 2016.

The Handbook is intended to build on the work electricity and gas transmission and distribution network service providers have already undertaken to develop consumer engagement strategies and implement engagement programs with customers.

It does not duplicate the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Consumer Engagement Guideline for Network Service Providers, but will complement and build on it – and other guidelines – to help network businesses plan, execute, evaluate and continuously improve their engagement activities.

Mr Bradley said there is no silver bullet for ensuring the energy system delivers the best outcomes for customers.

“Giving a voice to time-poor customers is the key to maximising the benefits of a changing energy system for the community,” Mr Bradley said.

Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap program director CSIRO Mark Paterson said the evolution to a two-way flow energy system must be reflected in the relationship between energy companies and their customers.

“The Handbook provides practical advice on customer engagement approaches and methods and builds on work already undertaken by energy network businesses as they navigate a period of unprecedented change,” Mr Paterson said.

Mr Bradley said energy networks recognise there is more to do to support customer choices and improve relationships with energy customers.

“Energy network businesses are actively engaging with customers on how they want to use the network, future energy network prices, and changing energy services,” Mr Bradley said.

“For example, Victorian energy distributor, AusNet Services, sends customers with a grid-connected solar system an SMS when their solar panels appear not to be operating efficiently and directs them to a troubleshooting fact sheet.

“Energy networks also engaged significantly with their customers in developing Tariff Structure Statements, which describe how networks will charge customers for network services, to gain customer views on tariff design as the system transitions to fairer, more efficient tariffs.”

Customer panels are also an important example, such as the ElectraNet Consumer Advisory Panel established to provide advice on customer needs, inform planning and improve the value of electricity transmission services in South Australia, according to Mr Bradley.

“While changes in technology and services add complexity to the energy system, they also provide opportunities for greater choice and engagement by customers with the system,” he said.

“The new Handbook reflects the commitment of energy network businesses to raising the profile of energy network customers in decision making processes.”