Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 18 October 2022) . . Page.. 3233 ..
looking at a poverty task force and in relation to what his government, the Labor-Greens government, is doing by not helping at all those tens of thousands of Canberrans who are facing a housing crisis. I find his comments quite incredible in that regard. I look forward to seeing the results of the inquiry, however.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (3.59): I am pleased to join in this discussion of what is a very topical and very interesting issue. I welcome Mr Pettersson bringing this matter forward for discussion in the Assembly today.
Recently, I have also received correspondence from a number of constituents in the territory who live in or have purchased apartments that are part of an embedded electricity network. After having received notice of increases to their electricity costs commencing from the beginning of this financial year, they have found that it is extremely difficult to separate themselves from their embedded network in order to access more competitive electricity pricing through alternative electricity retailers.
The expectation of embedded networks is that they would enable innovative solutions and better access to solar power for apartment residents. While there have been some positive outcomes from the introduction of this mechanism, it has become evident that the changes have also had some consequences that warrant further consideration.
The ACT’s framework for embedded networks relies largely on national legislation, with considerable work having been done on this issue at the federal level at around the time that the ACT changes were made. As we learn from the on-the-ground experience of energy consumers here in the territory, we can see that the changes have not necessarily unfolded as expected, and further changes may be needed to get the best outcomes for customers.
It appears that there is currently no obligation for an alternative retailer to take on a customer within an established embedded electricity network. This includes ActewAGL Retail, which means the regulated standing offer for electricity pricing will not necessarily apply to an embedded electricity network and is not available to embedded network customers. It also seems that a customer’s avenues to redress this issue are limited by the contractual arrangements under which embedded electricity networks are established.
In many cases contractual arrangements are established initially between the electricity retailer and the developer during the construction of an apartment building. These contracts are then extended to the owners corporation, or body corporate, but not to the individual unit title holder. As such, a unit title holder has difficulty seeking redress through consumer protection advocates for a contract to which they are not a party.
In some cases customers may not even be aware that they are part of an embedded electricity network until they seek to change their electricity retailer. Contracts can be initially established over long periods, locking in customers, but not allowing them the flexibility to access cheaper electricity prices that may be available to customers with direct electricity connections.