COMMENT: A critical turning point for energy sector

Peter Ongley
Peter Ongley

It’s coming together like a perfect storm for energy companies: thousands of digital meters to be installed, angry customers who can’t use their own solar electricity, a growing level of complaints to the Electricity and Water Ombudsman NSW and more anger from price increases of around 15 per cent from July 1.

It is hard to see it as anything other than a storm entirely of their own making though.

Energy companies along with those who put into the early solar bonus schemes knew that the bonus scheme would change and had been given an end date.

To suggest as Red Energy did that “the market was given six months to install 145,000 meters – which is a huge demand in such a short timeframe” is not telling the whole truth. Merimbula solar user Peter Ongley (pictured) said he had a letter from Red Energy back in November, some nine months ago and still he hasn’t had his meter changed. Meanwhile prices gallop ever onwards and upwards.

Complaints to the Electricity & Water Ombudsman NSW rose for the third quarter in a row between January and March 2017. The Ombudsman received 5904 cases - a 5 per cent increase from the previous quarter.

Billing complaints, particularly high bills, continued to dominate, followed by complaints about poor customer service, and now they are also seeing a rise in the number of complaints about the installation of digital meters which are needed to allow solar customers to use their own electricity.

All this sits against a backdrop of the Blueprint for the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, a report by the Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel.

“We are at a critical turning point. Managed well, Australia will benefit from a secure and reliable energy future. Managed poorly, our energy future will be less secure, more unreliable and potentially very costly. Governments have made commitments to a lower emissions future but the pathway is blocked by uncertainty about how to get there. If we don’t take immediate action, or even if we continue as we have been, Australia risks being left behind,” the report states. 

In fact it could not be clearer: it is a clarion call to our politicians to actually stop the political stone throwing, and get on with the job of developing a long-term energy policy so that all sectors of the power industry can plan and invest without fear of sudden U-turns, and users can have some stability of pricing.