Victorian energy code breaches on the rise

New reporting arrangements have shown Victorian energy businesses breached industry rules more than 600 times in the last six months of 2016.

The Essential Services Commission has released the latest Victorian Energy Market Report on the performance of energy companies against various industry codes including retail, distribution and marketing codes, following a reform of its energy reporting framework.

The report shows there were 687 breaches of the rules in the six months to December 31 last year.

Commission chief executive Dr John Hamill said the breaches fall into two main categories.

“There were more than 250 incidents of failing to give customers the minimum four days’ notice of a planned power outage as well as over 370 wrongful disconnections,” he said.

Energy companies paid out more than half a million dollars over the same period for these wrongful disconnection.

Five Victorians on life support weren’t given notice about planned power outages to their homes.

The report also found 27 instances when a registered life support customer was improperly disconnected from electricity between July 2013 to September 2016.

The report said the mistakes occurred due to “human error or inaccurate maps”, but luckily no one was “materially affected”.

Energy companies have since reported changes to ensure the errors don’t happen again, including changes to systems, retraining staff and improving the accuracy of network maps.

The problem appears to be getting worse, with energy companies on track to pass the previous financial year’s figure of 565 wrongful disconnections.

During the 2015-16 financial year, Origin had 214 wrongful disconnections, AGL EnergyAustralia had 117, Lumo 63, Simply Energy 52, AGL 34 and Alinta 30,

Dr Hamill says the report also covers developments in the Victorian energy market between July and December last year.

“It talks about what happened in the electricity and gas markets over this period, as well as what we are doing to encourage energy businesses to comply with relevant industry codes,” he said.

The report outlines some of the commission’s reform program after being granted new consumer protection powers by the government.

Last year, Endeavour Energy and Ergon Energy were both fined $20,000 for alleged breaches of the life support obligations under the National Energy Retail Rules.

In both incidents, customers requiring life support unexpectedly lost electricity supply during planned works.