This report is a combination of description and thoughts arising from a study tour of the UK undertaken by Mark Henley, 29th May to 15th June, 2017 to focus on how best engagement with consumer interests, by network businesses is undertaken. This coming at a time when these same questions are under active consideration in Australia.

Mark is employed by Uniting Communities a major community service organisation in South Australia that is a part of the national UnitingCare Australia policy network.

Uniting Communities has had a long-term commitment to ‘community development’ approaches with the language of ‘community engagement’ being the more common language in Australian energy markets. The organisation has a strong interest in energy affordability since it is the most commonly mentioned concern for clients of financial counselling services and energy affordability is an ongoing concern for people involved with many other services provided by the organisation and our peers.

Uniting Communities has taken a lead on energy network costs for a number of years including the rule changes debated during 2012 and the development of the consumer engagement guideline as part of the Australian Energy Regulator’s 2013 “better regulation” process. In 2015, through UnitingCare Australia, a concept report was released that is generally referred to as the ‘DNA of network regulation.’ In this report it was observed that the network regulatory processes of the day could be characterised by the network’s proposing, defending and litigating (through Limited Merits Review). The alternative that was proposed was for network regulatory processes that sought agreement between consumer interests and network businesses, with processes of negotiation and for more complex issues, deliberative processes being utilised to seek such agreement, hence the DNA approach referred to Deliberative processes and / or Negotiation seeking Agreement.

This study visit was intended to build on this background and in particular to explore the nitty-gritty details of ‘how‘ of consumer engagement is undertaken by network businesses in the United Kingdom and gain a sense of consumer views on the effectiveness of various approaches from network businesses as well is from different regulators. This with a view to whether there were any UK experiences that could be applied in Australian settings.

Please see the attached document to read the full report.


Report-of-visit-to-United-Kingdom

This report is a combination of description and thoughts arising from a study tour of the UK undertaken by Mark Henley, 29th May to 15th June, 2017 to focus on how best engagement with consumer interests, by network businesses is undertaken. This coming at a time when these same questions are under active consideration in Australia.

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