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Customer representatives have played an active role in developing AusNet Services’s regulatory proposal, resulting in easier and faster processes and more affordable services, with the average bill set to fall by $110.

AusNet Services’s Regulatory Proposal sets out its plans for the delivery of electricity distribution services for the period 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2026. It reflects the outcomes of its Australian-first trial to involve customer representatives directly in the development process.

Under the trial, AusNet Services has agreed parts of its proposed services and expenditure directly with the Customer Forum.

The forum is led by the former Consumer Affairs Minister for Victoria, Tony Robinson, and
comprises highly-skilled, qualified individuals appointed to formally represent the perspectives of
AusNet Services customers.

The trial has been oversighted by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Energy Consumers Australia and Energy Networks Australia under the ‘NewReg’ approach to electricity network regulation.

By engaging more extensively than ever before with its customers, and working with the Customer Forum, AusNet has reflected their needs and expectations by:

• Making services more affordable: the average bill will fall by $110, or 12 per cent, from December 2020 to July 2021, and then will only increase in line with inflation ($48 for an average
residential customer, $627 for an average business customer). Rural customers are set to
benefit from the cancellation of remote connection and disconnection charges, saving $750,00 each year

• Improving customer communication and processes: AusNet Services has streamlined its claims process to enable easier customer access. It has introduced a solar connections tool, allowing more customers to connect faster. The number of simple residential solar connections that can be self-assessed and automatically approved has increased from less than 40 per cent to more than 90 per cent. There is also broad support for AustNet Services’s proposed incentive scheme to encourage better customer service

• Maintaining reliability and safety: AusNet Services customers have made it clear that they don’t want these compromised

• Supporting customers’ rooftop solar investments: AusNet Services is proposing to allow more solar exports onto the network in line with customer expectations – using technology and targeted investment to keep the costs down

• Innovating to support the energy future: Modest innovation expenditure is proposed to
support the energy transition, particularly household and business investment in solar and
batteries, and spread benefits to all customers

• Using smart meters to benefit customers: Working with the Customer Forum, AusNet Services has identified more ways to use this existing technology to benefit customers

Importantly, AusNet Services is continuing to deliver on its bushfire safety program, previously agreed with the Victorian Government. It is installing technology (REFCLs) that rapidly cuts the power to fallen lines, preventing bushfires. Nine REFCLs are already operating and successfully reducing bushfire risk for customers. This has provided peace of mind whilst dealing with the unprecedented fires in its network.

AusNet Services Managing Director, Tony Narvaez, said, “This proposal responds to our customers’ desire for affordable services, continuing reliable and safe electricity supply, improvements in how they experience our services and support for customers’ use of solar and other technologies.”

Customer Forum Chairman, Tony Robinson, said, “The Customer Forum acknowledges AusNet Services’s genuine commitment to better understand and respond to the needs of our customers. We hope that our input into the EDPR process will ensure AusNet Services customers are better served and that their expectations are more closely aligned to plans for the network.”

The Customer Forum has prepared an independent report on its findings, which was published 3 February 2020.

The proposal, a plain-English overview and the Customer Forum’s independent report are all available here.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

©2020 utilitymagazine. All rights reserved

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