A national energy advocacy body will be established to represent Australian energy consumers on issues such as price and reliability, following changes to legislation by South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis.
Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) will have representation from all states and territories. It will begin operating in early 2015.
Koutsantonis introduced the measure in State Parliament yesterday, saying the body will act in consumers' interests during processes such as setting network costs and changes to regulations.
"The establishment of Energy Consumers Australia will be an important step towards increasing consumer advocacy on national energy market issues - in particular those that affect residential, small business and vulnerable energy consumers," the Minister said.
"Energy Consumers Australia will promote the long-term interests of energy consumers in regards to the price, quality, safety, reliability and security of supply of energy services across the country."
The establishment of the ECA was agreed upon by state and federal energy ministers at the COAG Energy Council in December 2013.
The guiding document of the ECA also lays out other functions of the advocacy body, including:
Other functions of Energy Consumers Australia will include:
- Engaging and communicating with consumers and consumer advocates to discuss, liaise and provide updates on the National Energy Market and its policies, reforms and issues.
- Undertake research as well as fund and administer a grant program to support policy development and consumer education in energy markets.
- Engage with key stakeholders including consumer advocates, the Australian Energy Regulator, jurisdictional regulators, energy market participants, the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Market Operator and governments and energy ombudsmen.
- Adopt an evidence-based approach to advocacy and assessment of state issues to improve the effectiveness of advocacy in the Australian energy markets.