The COAG Energy Council has established Energy Consumers Australia, a new body that will increase consumer advocacy in the national energy policy arena.

Energy Consumers Australia’s inaugural board was jointly announced by Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, and South Australian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Tom Koutsantonis.

Respected consumer advocate Louise Sylvan will chair the five person board that brings together a wealth of experience across consumer protection and advocacy, energy markets, and regulation.

“Energy Consumers Australia will provide a strong voice for all those that use energy and want competitive and transparent prices, particularly residential and small business consumers,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Energy users will now be able to engage on issues like the price, quality, safety, reliability, and security of supply of energy services in a more meaningful way.”

As former CEO of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, a former Productivity Commission member, and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair, Ms Sylvan is well qualified to chair the new board as it establishes the organisation and provides much-needed national focus on issues important to energy consumers.

Ms Sylvan will be joined by Steven Graham, Catherine Cooper, Clare Petre, and Gillian Owen.

Mr Koutsantonis said the announcement of the Energy Consumers Australia board is the next step towards empowering energy consumers, and follows legislative changes made in the South Australian Parliament last December.

“Energy Consumers Australia will build its own in-house research and advocacy capabilities to explore emerging issues of strategic importance to energy consumers, particularly households and small business,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“The board will work closely with consumer advocates, ombudsman, industry, regulators and governments to build a collegiate approach to advocacy across the country.”

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has welcomed the establishment of Energy Consumers Australia and the appointment of its inaugural board.

ENA Chief Executive Officer John Bradley said the body would play a critical role in leading consumer advocacy across Australia on energy related issues.

“It is fantastic to see the formation of Energy Consumers Australia with its strong suite of board members, led by Louise Sylvan as Chair.”

“As energy networks businesses transform their consumer engagement, we welcome Energy Consumers Australia and its leadership of consumer advocacy on the energy issues important to customers,” Mr Bradley said.

Mr Bradley said the body would commence at a critical time given the increasing innovation in energy network businesses in customer oriented services.

“Electricity and gas network businesses are making significant changes to increase the participation of consumers to ensure their voices are heard on issues affecting convenience, price, reliability, amenity, and safety of their energy service.

“Energy Consumers Australia can influence a national, co-ordinated approach to consumer advocacy, while recognising the need for effective localised approaches given the differences across Australia,” Mr Bradley said.

Mr Bradley said the ENA and network businesses looked forward to working closely with the board during 2015.

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