Since 2015, NSW electricity networks (Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy) have been locked in a legal battle with the AER in relation to the amount that electricity networks can charge for their services. PIAC has represented NSW consumers in these proceedings, arguing for lower prices.
On 17 October 2016, PIAC was granted leave to intervene in the judicial review hearings commenced by the AER before the Full Federal Court. PIAC was supported by a grant from Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) to undertake this work. In a decision announced on 24 May 2017 the Federal Court upheld most of the network businesses’ arguments, in favour of higher prices. However, it also upheld one of the AER’s grounds of appeal in relation to corporate income tax.
PIAC’s intervention in this case was the first time a consumer group has been heard in an electricity price dispute before the Full Federal Court and set a precedent for consumer involvement in judicial review proceedings in relation to the AER’s determinations.
In addition to the NSW proceedings, PIAC has assisted consumer organisations in other jurisdictions, supported by an ECA grant. This work – including the publication of a plain-English consumer guide and a legal article documenting consumer experiences of the review process – has built the capacity of consumer organisations to participate in the AER’s determination process and any subsequent reviews.