Page 3232 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 18 October 2022
network operators and generators. Many of them have observed that the regulatory regime for embedded networks in New South Wales is no longer fit for purpose.
However, the Australian Energy Regulator, the AER, noted in its submission to the New South Wales inquiry that there can be benefits for consumers in embedded networks. It gave an example of a retirement village that achieved energy cost savings by converting to an embedded network. It also mentioned cost savings for commercial consumers in shopping centres through the use of solar panels in an embedded network.
The AER has demonstrated that it is very mindful of the need to strike the right regulatory balance. The AER released retail guideline version 6 in July this year, which included improvements to protections for consumers in embedded networks and further clarification of the obligation of embedded network operators. Some of these include a requirement for an embedded network operator to have a hardship policy, provide consumers with an AER fact sheet and make it clear that consumers must be fully informed before an embedded network is established.
The AER also requires embedded network providers to become a member of a state or territory’s energy ombudsman, as part of the AER application process. Here in the ACT, of course, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, ACAT, acts as the ACT’s energy ombudsman and provides dispute resolution between energy providers and consumers.
There are also some complexities around the national energy retail law and the application of the ACT retail electricity code. The ACT code does not apply to embedded network providers in the ACT that have an AER exemption. Given these complexities, along with the importance of striking a fair and reasonable regulatory balance, the operation of embedded networks will need to be examined very closely. Any inquiry must present a detailed picture of how embedded networks operate in the ACT and carefully weigh their costs and benefits.
Of course, improving the competitive operation of our energy network will be crucial, going forward, as more Canberrans shift to zero emissions vehicles and are forced to transition to all-electric goods and place more demand on the grid. Private embedded networks may play a crucial role in meeting demand.
Whilst I have no objection to Mr Pettersson’s motion, subject to the comments that I have just outlined, to be honest, Mr Assistant Speaker, I am genuinely surprised that the Labor-Greens government has not already looked more closely at this issue, particularly before making grand announcements about banning internal combustion engine cars and gas. The fact is that it should not take a government backbencher to bring forward bread-and-butter governance matters like this one. The government should be getting on with the job of ensuring markets operate efficiently in Canberra, which has the potential to benefit many Canberrans, especially as cost of living pressures continue to hit them hard.
Finally, I understand that Mr Pettersson, in his opening speech, talked about how we should all be exercising the levers at our disposal to ensure that we address the cost of living. That is in stark contrast, of course, to what he has done by voting against