Uniting Communities, as part of UnitingCare Australia first used the term ‘DNA approach’ to network regulation in 2015. We were responding in part to the frustration of network regulatory processes that we observed to be based on an approach that we summarised as: “propose, defend, litigate.” We observed network businesses, in general, to not give much regard to consumer input, in practice if not in rhetoric, while challenging the regulator’s decision was common practice and we observed that some aspects of the process of regulation are intended for the appeal process rather than in the best interests of consumers through the regulatory process.
We proposed an alternative approach of active partnership with consumers in developing regulatory proposals in particular we said that regulation of energy networks should involve deliberation and negotiation with consumer interests and other stakeholders, seeking agreement on the key aspects of the proposal to be lodged with the AER – the DNA approach. A particular methodology was not being proposed, but we were convinced that any regulatory proposal developed that included deliberative processes and negotiation with the objective of reaching agreement with consumers and stakeholder interests would almost certainly be a substantial improvement on what was then the prevailing approach.
The first 2 months of 2018 have seen substantial consumer engagement activities being undertaken by all three NSW distribution businesses with a significant number of ‘deep dive’ sessions. This reflects some of the substantial recent development in commitment to and application of consumer engagement approaches by energy network businesses.
In March of this year, Mr. Peter Eben – director and co-founder of Seed Advisory – ran a Consumer Engagement workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to improve consumer engagement practice in network regulation in Australia.