How rules are the enabler of a better energy market

Benn Barr

Chief Executive

Like many of you, I’ve spent some of this hot and humid summer reflecting on the year just gone, what’s in store for the year ahead and spending time with my family. 

In contemplating my work and my family I thought to myself – how important are rules?

Sometimes people see rules as stopping them from doing something. But rules, when done right, are enablers. In a pandemic they enable us to stay safe and have the economy recover quickly. At home my rule about no devices at the table is trying to enable quality time with my family – and sometimes it even does. In soccer, the offside rule may infuriate some but it is the glue that enables the play to evolve into beautiful patterns of triangles.

At the AEMC being the rule maker for energy markets we think about individual rule changes in the context of the big picture. The rules need to set the frameworks to enable the transition to benefit consumers in the long term. They need to think not just about the problems of today but how the system will evolve over time. The environment we are in calls on us to double down on two things I spoke about last year. The need to prioritise the things that are going to make the most difference and the need to continually improve on how we get input from consumers, industry, our market body colleagues and governments if we are going to deliver what we need to.

Like our counterparts, we made greater use of digital technologies to consult with stakeholders as  COVID-19 took hold last year. This year we want to find yet more innovative approaches to working with you on our reviews and rule changes. My hope is that this will allow us to have more meaningful dealings with all our stakeholders, while also acknowledging that your time is valuable.

We have already committed to prioritising our work so that we have the right resources directed to the right projects and we will hone that more this year. I’m wanting to improve efforts to have ongoing, regular dialogue that starts early in the development of our thinking. I’m keen to deepen the conversation with stakeholders so that we can all get a better understanding of the issues confronting Australia’s energy sector as it transitions. This will help us identify emerging issues and work with you to find practical solutions to them.

I’m excited by 2021 for other reasons too.

We are in the middle of reviewing our next three-year Strategic Plan. This is of course a critical activity for us that will allow us to build on the strengths of our work and deliver better outcomes for energy consumers. We will engage with you on this in coming months.

Our participation as a member of the Energy Security Board is helping to set the post 2025 direction of the national electricity market. Options for a pathway forward will go to governments in the middle of the year and follow more than 18 months of consultation by ESB members. My hope is that by bringing our skills and expertise to this work, we can deliver enduring benefit to consumers and the sector.

The collaboration between the market bodies for the post 2025 work has been great and will continue as we all are aiming for a reliable, affordable and secure energy supply.  My door is always open and we’re happy to help stakeholders navigate their way around.

Even as we finish the post 2025 advice, we will still be dealing with the more immediate challenges through several key project and initiatives.

As of today, we have 29 rules and four reviews underway, with more pending.

The interests of consumers remain at the forefront of our thinking. Enabling the grid of the future is among our major priorities for the year. Australian consumers have been enthusiastic adopters of distributed energy resources. We want our work to act as a gateway to an expansion of distributed technologies such as solar in a way that benefits all users. We appreciate the broad collaboration of stakeholders on this issue and expect to release a draft decision on requests to change the rules next month.

If I can look back at the end of 2021 and think what will be one of the most important things we do, I keep coming back to landing our system security work program. It’s the fundamental building block of the transition that’s underway and the platform to successfully decarbonise the electricity sector. We have a work program of rule changes including system strength and frequency that we need your input on this year to get right. 

Without your input though it’s not going to work. Reach out let us know your thoughts and together we can work to make the rules an enabler of a better energy market for Australia.