As cities are experiencing development with business parks, commercial properties and apartment blocks, there is also an increase of independent energy network systems. These are otherwise known as Embedded Energy Networks. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER- https://www.aer.gov.au) define these networks as where:
“…electrical wiring is configured in such a way as to enable the owner of the site to sell energy to all the tenants or residents based there.”
Essentially, the site owner purchases electricity from a retailer and on-sells this to their customers and tenants onsite. Occasionally the site owner may generate their own electricity and sell it through this means also. These electricity sellers are known as exempt sellers as they don’t require authorisation from the AER, but still need to follow certain rules to uphold their customers’ rights.
Is there a choice of providers within Embedded Energy Networks?
There are usually two choices when moving into an embedded energy network site. Purchasing electricity from the site owner is straight forward and usually organised through a utilities management company to connect, supply and invoice at the end of the elected billing period. A good real estate agent should have the utility company and building manager details and be able to provide them to you prior to your move-in date.
There can also be an option to purchase your electricity through a regular energy retailer. This can come with its own challenges as to whether the retailer is prepared to operate within an embedded network. If proceeding with this option, ensure network charges are not charged twice by having an arrangement with the retailer to invoice for ‘energy only’, and determine through the owner and retailer who will charge the network fees. This is important and needs to be clear, or both the retailer and building owner could invoice for network charges, since the building owner may also pass on network charges for having the ability to supply the electricity.
As customers of exempt sellers, whether residential or commercial, there are still protections in place for payment options and payment dates, clear connection/disconnection procedures and comparable electricity rates to standard retail offers that do not exceed the average price charges for electricity usage and provision. As importantly, there should always be an avenue for customer complaints handling as well.
If customers feel their complaints are not being handled appropriately, they are eligible to contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman in their state or territory. Each embedded network operator is mandated to join their ombudsman in the respective state or territory if membership is available.
Ombudsman Links per Australian State and Territory:
About the author: Candice Delac is the Chief Energy Efficiency Consultant at Energy Ninja, a consultancy that assists business and home owners to reduce energy costs.