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EnergyAustralia customer stewardship exemplar

Empowering customers with new energy - data and technology

The Better Infrastructure Initiative identified eight industry exemplars who represent what good customer stewardship looks like and how it is being practiced in Australia. EnergyAustralia is one of those 2017 exemplars.

EnergyAustralia poses these questions: When was the last time you thought about your energy provider? Let me guess - it was when you got your bill, right? And what exactly is an energy provider? Do they energise you, or even excite you? Probably not - chances are you find them dull at best, annoyingly expensive at worst. In fact the bills they charge are so disconnected from the benefits energy gives you, it feels more like a tax than paying for a service.

EnergyAustralia says this needs to change. Australia is at the beginning of an energy awakening and now more than ever the energy industry need to work together to empower and energise Australia to better, cleaner energy decisions. This means finding unique ways for consumers to make informed energy decisions, improving transparency and fairness, and delivering innovative solutions. EnergyAustralia is finding ways to put their 1.7 million customers across eastern Australia in control of their energy choices.

Technological innovation is central to EnergyAustralia’s efforts to improve customer choice, transparency and giving consumers control of their energy costs. EnergyAustralia’s investment in new technology such as the Redback Solar Inverter System, launched in September 2017, allows customers to decide how they use, store and even sell energy captured from their roof-top solar panels. As Australia transitions to a cleaner energy future, EnergyAustralia recognises that many customers will continue with traditional energy connections for this essential service. As a result, they have implemented a range of plans and policies to make energy offers fairer by ensuring customers always have access to best-in-market plans, rewarding commitment and providing support for those that have trouble paying for their energy bills.

These diverse but complementary strategies are good examples of Principle 2 “Evidence of empowering customers with information and choice to help match individual need and requirements,” and Principle 8 “Innovation - evidence of a culture for shaping and investing in dynamic and relevant customer-led innovation.”

Technological innovation in energy markets drives greater customer choice

In September, EnergyAustralia launched the next generation Redback Smart Hybrid System, new technology specifically created to put families and businesses in control of their energy consumption. EnergyAustralia’s partnership with Redback Technologies, announced in October 2016, is the first major investment by EnergyAustralia’s NextGen business unit, dedicated to developing the energy businesses of the future using new disruptive technologies.

The Redback Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter system combines a smart solar inverter, battery enclosure and “intelligent” energy management software into a seamless package. The technology allows customers to decide how they use, save and even sell energy captured from their roof-top solar panels. And they can do it all from a smartphone.

Redback is an example of how EnergyAustralia is investing in the development of reliable, affordable and cleaner technology which puts the customer in control of their energy consumption. With the Redback system, customers can manage their energy consumption so they not only save money, but reduce their carbon emissions. In addition to helping customers make the most of the energy captured by their solar systems, Redback helps to make households less reliant on the grid.

The technology will allow a customer to schedule major appliances including electric hot-water systems, air-conditioners or even pool pumps to run when there is excess solar power available. It means households don’t have to draw energy from the grid during peak times. The technology uses machine learning to gather intelligence over time based on user preferences and even external factors like the weather.

Today’s consumer expects their energy retailer to deliver products and services that go beyond electrons – they want reliable, affordable and cleaner energy, and as with other retail sectors they want value for money in return for their commitment.

EnergyAustralia defines success as delivering reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all Australians, no matter what they earn or where they live. In delivering to this, EnergyAustralia has launched a range of initiatives for our customers that deliver to what customers want. From making cleaner energy solutions more accessible, increasing transparency of customer plans, to recognising commitment and providing reassurance and support for those that have trouble paying their energy bills.

Australians believe climate change is a serious issue and they want to do their bit in addressing the issue head on. The problem is the industry is not making it easy or affordable. Research conducted by EnergyAustralia found around 46 percent of people agree that climate change is a serious issue and 42 percent would choose a clean energy solution if it was in their budget. But less than 20 percent of customers are motivated to do something.

Using this insight, EnergyAustralia made cleaner energy choices easier and more affordable by introducing a carbon neutral program for its existing customers. Go Neutral offsets all the carbon emissions from a customer’s electricity at home, at no extra cost.

Fairness also means all customers have access to affordable energy.

EnergyAustralia has had a hardship program in place since 2005. The aim of the program is to help the company’s most vulnerable customers achieve financial independence.

When a customer joins the program, EnergyAustralia’s approach is to review their existing plan and make the appropriate changes to ensure they’re receiving the best in-market offer and any government concessions to which they’re entitled. Payment plans based on what the customer can afford can also be set up, because commitment to the program is more important than capacity to pay.

Recently EnergyAustralia announced an additional AUD10 million investment in financial relief measures and support to help their most vulnerable customers, and was one of 12 “trailblazers” and the first energy company to launch a Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP) aimed at helping people achieve financial security and independence.

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Image courtesy of Energy Australia.