FAQs

What are the National Electricity Rules and what do they cover?

What are the National Gas Rules and what do they cover?

Why does the energy market need rules?

What is the outlook for electricity prices?

What is the outlook for gas prices?

What is the National Energy Customer Framework?

What are the National Energy Retail Rules and what do they cover?

What states and territories are participating in the National Energy Customer Framework?

Do the customer protections under the National Energy Customer Framework apply to me?

What happens when the National Energy Customer Framework starts in my state or territory?

Where can I find out more about electricity bill benchmarking and understanding my electricity usage?

Will the National Energy Customer Framework lead to lower energy prices?

What do I do if I am having difficulty paying my electricity or gas bill?

When should I contact the Australian Energy Market Commission? 

What if I have an issue with my current energy supplier, or I wish to make a complaint?

What is an energy ombudsman?

Who is my energy ombudsman and what are the contact details?

What are the National Electricity Rules and what do they cover?

The National Electricity Rules govern the operation of the National Electricity Market (NEM). Changes to the National Electricity Rules are made by the AEMC.  The rules govern the operation of the wholesale electricity market; that is, the market arrangements for the commercial exchange of electricity from the electricity producers (generators) through to the electricity retailers. They also regulate the transportation of electricity by transmission and distribution network companies from the generators to the retailers, but do not cover the retail sale of electricity to end users. The rules apply to those states and territories that are electrically connected – Queensland, NSW, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, collectively referred to as the National Electricity Market. Chapter 5A of these rules, which sets out electricity connections for retail customers, is relevant to consumers.

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What are the National Gas Rules and what do they cover?

The National Gas Law and the National Gas Rules bring responsibility for regulation of access to natural gas pipeline services provided by transmission and distribution pipelines under the national energy market framework. The National Gas Rules also govern the operation of the Short Term Trading Market (STTM) in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide, the Declared Wholesale Gas Market in Victoria, and the Natural Gas Services Bulletin Board.

In Western Australia some aspects of the National Gas Rules are applied by the Energy Regulation Authority of Western Australia rather than the AER.

Participating jurisdictions under the National Gas Law are South Australia, the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and - on a modified basis – Western Australia.

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Why does the energy market need rules?

The electricity supply chain between the generators and consumers is divided in the competitive generation sector, the monopoly network businesses and the competitive retail sector. The generator sector operates as a spot market with many generating companies competing to provide energy to be delivered to consumers.  The operation of this market is governed by a set of rules to facilitate:

Similarly, the gas supply chain is divided into production, transmission and distribution and the retail sector. The operation of the STTM and the DWGM aim to provide efficient markets for the trading of gas and gas services between various market participants.

The significant cost of extensive networks of electricity poles and wires and gas pipelines means that network services in a particular region can be most efficiently provided by a single (monopoly) supplier. The rules governing the economic regulation frameworks for the electricity and gas sectors enable the regulator to set the maximum revenues that electricity network businesses can charge for the services they provide. They also enable the relevant regulator to establish the prices and other terms and conditions to be used in negotiating access to gas pipelines. Regulation helps consumers by managing the potential risks of monopoly pricing (such as overcharging or poor service in regional areas). Prices are usually set every five years. The five-year regulatory cycle was established to help encourage a stable investment environment.

The retail sector of the supply chain is competitive as consumers can generally purchase their energy from more than one energy retailer.  Most of the regulation in this sector is administered through the general consumer law and by the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF).

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What is the outlook for electricity prices?

Electricity prices are complex. The factors driving them can change in response to social and economic developments which are hard to predict such as changes in general demand and peak demand; entry and exit of generators from the wholesale market; changes to retail price regulation depending on policy decisions made by states and territories; changes in network prices following new regulatory determinations for each network business. At the same time price trends in each state and territory are different as costs vary due to population spread and density, weather, technology, economy strength and consumer choices. The AEMC publishes an annual report on retail electricity price trends. The main driver of upward pressure on retail prices has been network prices in recent years but these cost rises are expected to moderate

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What is the outlook for gas prices in the eastern gas market?

Australia’s eastern gas market is experiencing a structural and permanent increase in demand and supply due to the development of the Queensland LNG export industry. Although exports will not start until late 2014, the eastern domestic market is already feeling the effects of greater competition for gas. This has resulted in upward pressure on prices and a focus on the improving the efficiency of the gas supply chain. East coast gas prices, which have been historically low by international standards, are likely to rise as new gas contracts are negotiated at a time coinciding with increasing LNG exports.

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What is the National Energy Customer Framework?

The National Energy Customer Framework is the name given to the broad national arrangement that has been developed by energy ministers to support the efficient operation of the electricity and natural gas retail markets, while also ensuring appropriate consumer protections are in place for residential and other small customers.  This involves the transfer of previously existing state and territory responsibilities (for participating jurisdictions) for energy customer protections to a new national regulatory regime that governs the sale and supply of electricity and natural gas to retail customers.

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What are the National Energy Retail Rules and what do they cover?

The National Energy Retail Rules govern the sale and supply of energy (electricity and natural gas) from retailers and distributors to customers.

While some of the rules have general application to all customers, most are primarily focused on the sale and supply of energy to residential and other small customers, such as those that set out the consumer protection measures and model contract terms and conditions.  These rules are an important part of the National Energy Customer Framework.

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What states and territories are participating in the National Energy Customer Framework?

The National Energy Customer Framework has commenced in the following jurisdictions:

Other jurisdictions may follow in accordance with their own implementation plans.  Western Australian and the Northern Territory are not adopting the customer framework as separate energy industry frameworks apply in these jurisdictions.

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Do the customer protections under the National Energy Customer Framework apply to me?

If you are a residential or other small customer; and your premises are located within one of the participating states or territories, you will be covered by the consumer protection provisions established under the customer framework.  If you are a non-residential  customer with energy consumption levels that exceed the thresholds for a small customer, then the NECF consumer protection provisions do not apply to you. Rather the sale of energy is covered by the terms and conditions of your individual supply contract. 

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What happens when the National Energy Customer Framework starts in my state or territory?

Once the national laws become operational in your state or territory, the consumer protections under the customer framework apply subject to jurisdictional modifications. You don’t have to do anything further to receive the benefit of these protections. The Australian Energy Regulator is responsible for enforcement of these consumer protections. There should be no significant difference to the way your electricity or natural gas services are delivered. You may, however, notice some additional information on your electricity bills which will allow you to compare your electricity use to similar sized households in your area. This is called ‘electricity bill benchmarking’ and should provide you with an opportunity to make an informed choice about how you use your energy. If your energy use is high, then there may be opportunities to make changes to the way you use it that will reduce your costs. Your electricity retailer will advise you when these changes come into effect and will provide you with further information if you have any questions. These changes will not appear on your gas bills.

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Where can I find out more about electricity bill benchmarking and understanding my electricity usage?

More information about electricity bill benchmarking is available from the website of the Australian Energy Regulator, including their Energy Made Easy website.

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Will the National Energy Customer Framework lead to lower energy prices?

Retail energy price decisions are made by the jurisdictional regulators of relevant state and territory governments or by individual energy retailers. The National Energy Customer Framework does not deal with pricing matters; rather, it is about providing a base level of protection for residential and small customers while achieving retail energy market efficiency and effectiveness.

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What do I do if I am having difficulty paying my electricity or gas bill?

If you are a residential or small customer and you are experiencing difficulties in meeting your energy bills, ask your electricity or gas retailer about the customer hardship measures that they have in place. These are designed to assist you to manage your energy bills on an ongoing basis.  Alternatively, you can find more general information about energy supply and consumer protections from the website of the Australian Energy Regulator.

You can also contact your energy ombudsman.

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When should I contact the Australian Energy Market Commission? 

The Commission is the rule maker for the electricity, gas and retail energy markets in Australia.  If you have a question or concern about a specific rule and think that it should be changed in some way to improve its operation or the outcome of its operation, then you should consider lodging a rule change proposal for our consideration. General guidelines to provide you with assistance in preparing a rule change proposal are available from our website page, Preparing and lodging documents with the AEMC.

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What if I have an issue with my current energy supplier, or I wish to make a complaint?

If you have an issue about energy billing or supply, or have a complaint about your retailer or distributor:

If you are not sure what option you should take, or have other concerns or questions, please contact your energy ombudsman to discuss.

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What is an energy ombudsman?

Most jurisdictions have an energy ombudsman whose role is to receive, investigate and facilitate the resolution of customer complaints about electricity or gas companies operating in their jurisdiction (in many jurisdictions they will also look into complaints about water companies). The services provided to consumers are free of charge. If you have approached your service provider about your issue and feel that it has not been satisfactorily resolved, then you may wish to contact your energy ombudsman and register a formal complaint.

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Who is my energy ombudsman and what are the contact details?

The energy ombudsman is jurisdiction specific. Contact details are available here.