Tuesday, 20 October 2020 11:29

Energy Security Board consulting on energy sector reform

Dr Kerry Schott, Chair Energy Security Board Dr Kerry Schott, Chair Energy Security Board

The oversight body for energy reform in Australia, the Energy Security Board, has released a consultation paper outlining ways to close energy sector data gaps through improved access, protection, sharing, integration and the use of data.

ESB Chair, Dr Kerry Schott says the ESB data strategy seeks to modernise how the sector manages data to make energy more efficient, transparent and affordable, and “ensure consumers get the best value from the market transition to new more sustainable energy technologies”.

The Energy Security Board (ESB) - established by the COAG Energy Council to coordinate the implementation of the energy reformblueprint produced by Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel - has a stated objective of driving reforms to increase transparency across the energy sector and even the playing field between energy companies and consumers.

“For too long, energy data has been confusing and at times simply unavailable,” Dr Schott said.

“Despite improvements, many households and businesses remain unable to fully understand their energy bills, and policy makers have limited visibility on what consumers actually pay, what margins retailers are making and how different consumers are being affected by the market.

“Our data blind spots mean that grid operators, generators and networks are unable to fully see how new technologies such as rooftop solar are impacting reliable and safe supply.

“It means networks put constraints on solar which are often unnecessary, to avoid risks to the security of the energy system, and makes it difficult to identify what, where and when additional generation, poles and wires are needed.”

The ESB consultation paper makes a number of specific energy reform recommendations including:

  • Requiring retail plans to be transparent and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to report retail margins to keep pressure on efficient prices
  • New tracking of contracts and pricing for large energy users (AER)
  • Better data and metrics to improve services for vulnerable consumers
  • Requiring networks to publish their estimated distributed energy resources (DER) hosting capacity to help inform investments and decisions around DER connection requirements
  • Reforming metering data access rights so consumers get better value (as part of the upcoming Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) review of competitive metering)
  • Accelerating the availability of data needed to plan for electric vehicles.

Dr Schott says the ESB data strategy is an important step in implementing the Finkel Review recommendation to develop such a strategy, and is also aligned with the Consumer Data Right being developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and current work on the Data Availability and Transparency Bill (DAT Bill).

“We now have more data than ever but it isn’t being fully utilised and shared in a way that benefits consumers or provides the information necessary to inform investment in Australia’s energy future,” Dr Schott said.

“As data grows we need to ensure that data privacy and cyber security risks are more effectively and actively managed, that the energy market can adapt to changing data needs more efficiently, that data drives better planning, innovation and affordable services and that consumers can use their own data to get personalised services, through the Consumer Data Right.”

The ESB’s proposed overhaul of the energy data framework is now being consulted on, alongside a package of incremental reforms to address retail transparency, improve understanding of demand and different consumer needs, and improve visibility of low voltage networks and distributed energy resources.

There are also proposals to enhance ongoing data management capabilities with effective privacy safeguards to provide secure, reliable and affordable energy services.

The ESB says it will provide recommendations to energy ministers in early 2021 on key reforms to support the data strategy, and submissions on the consultation paper will be received until 27 November 2020.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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