Department of Energy and Water Supply. Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper

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1 Department of Energy and Water Supply Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper

2 State of Queensland, Department of Energy and Water Supply, The Queensland Government supports and encourages the dissemination and exchange of its information. The copyright in this publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY) licence. Under this licence you are free, without having to seek permission from DEWS, to use this publication in accordance with the licence terms. You must keep intact the copyright notice and attribute the State of Queensland, Department of Energy and Water Supply as the source of the publication. For more information on this licence visit Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 2

3 Contents Contents 3 1. Purpose 4 2. Background and context On-supply of electricity in Queensland Embedded Networks 5 3. Current state of the market Retail market pricing reforms Impacts on the on-supply market The impact of price deregulation for large business customers in SEQ The impact of deregulation on on-suppliers in regional Queensland The impact of the new pricing methodology upon on-suppliers in SEQ 8 4. Competition for customers in embedded networks 8 5. Other considerations 8 6. Points for discussion 9 7. Next Steps 10 Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 3

4 1. Purpose This paper is intended to engage stakeholders regarding market and regulatory issues associated with the on-supply of electricity in Queensland and was prepared in support of the Inter- Departmental Committee (IDC) on Electricity Sector Reform program of work. The IDC is undertaking a review of the drivers of electricity prices in Queensland including, amongst other things, the regulatory arrangements underpinning the market, the structure of the energy sector, national governance and market operation. As part of its review, the IDC has endorsed investigation of the arrangements relating to the on-supply of electricity in Queensland, with a particular focus on addressing: consumer protection on-supplier protection contestability in the marketplace Stakeholders have contacted the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS) with concerns about the current state of the electricity on-supply market and the relevant legislative and regulatory framework. This paper examines some the issues, presents a series of questions, and calls for submissions from interested stakeholders. The objective is to draw on stakeholders knowledge and experience in order to better understand the Queensland on-supply market as an aid to informed decision-making. 2. Background and context 2.1 On-supply of electricity in Queensland On-supply of electricity involves the owner, occupier or user of premises ( on-supplier ) buying electricity from a retailer and supplying and selling it to the occupants of the premises ( receivers ). The on-supply of electricity in Queensland is regulated under chapter 1, part 6 of the Electricity Act 1994 (Electricity Act). Under these arrangements, electricity supplied by the on-supplier to receivers: may be the subject of an on-supply agreement under which the on-supplier and the receiver agree how the on-supplier is to supply electricity to the receiver and how the on-supplier may charge the receiver for common area consumption for the on-supplier s premises; and may be supplied on a un-metered or metered basis and where a meter is installed at receivers premises, receivers must not be charged more than the lowest rate the receiver would have paid had the receiver been a non-market customer of a retailer (that is, receivers can not be charged more than the lowest applicable regulated retail tariff). Importantly, a receiver is not viewed as a customer (as defined in the Electricity Act) of either the on-supplier or the on-supplier s retailer. In practical terms this means receivers lack access to the Electricity Act s suite of customer protections and lack access to the services of the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland (EWOQ). Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 4

5 2.2 Embedded networks Generically speaking, an embedded network is a small network connected to a distribution network. Under National Electricity Market (NEM) procedures however, the term embedded network indicates a network where receivers are able to buy electricity directly from a retailer (i.e. are not required to buy electricity from the relevant on-supplier as embedded network owner/operator). For embedded networks established under and subject to these procedures, financial responsibilities are allocated to the embedded network owner s retailer and the end-users retailer/s by reference to National Metering Identifiers created for parent and child meters. One set of NEM procedures 1 reflects the Queensland Government s current policy position on the creation of embedded networks: QLD jurisdiction has not approved embedded networks for small consumers and determined that there will be no new embedded networks for large consumers. The reference to no new embedded networks for large customers recognises that a small number of embedded networks involving large, contestable customers were created prior to the commencement of full retail contestability in Queensland 2 on 1 July Current state of the market 3.1 Retail market pricing reforms Two significant reforms in the Queensland electricity retail market took effect on 1 July The first was the deregulation of retail pricing for large non-residential customers in the Energex distribution area. In plain language, this means business customers in southeast Queensland (SEQ) consuming at least 100 megawatt hours (MWh) per annum can no longer access regulated prices. The second was a change in the way Queensland s independent economic regulator, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA), set regulated electricity prices for In 2009 the QCA undertook a full review of regulated retail electricity tariffs, and the methodology then in place for determining the retail tariff rates, known as the Benchmark Retail Cost Index (BRCI). Under the direction of the then Government, the QCA were required to: Stage 1: examine the current Benchmark Retail Cost Index (BRCI) methodology and alternative pricing-setting methodologies for reflecting the costs of supplying electricity including network costs and accounting for all State and Commonwealth Government environmental obligations; and Stage 2: examine Queensland's existing retail electricity tariffs and alternative tariff structures which may assist in the long-term management of peak electricity demand and provide an incentive for customers to use electricity more efficiently. 1 MSATS Procedures : CATS Procedure Principles and Obligations v3.6 - available at: 2 Arrangements in place immediately before Full Retail Contestability were grandfathered under Electricity Act 1994 section 313. Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 5

6 The QCA advised that the current suite of retail tariffs were not cost-reflective (their rates did not reflect the underlying cost of supply for each tariff) and recommended that the BRCI methodology should be replaced by the more cost-reflective Network + Retail (N+R) methodology. The N + R approach means that each retail tariff is determined, or built-up, on the basis of the underlying network (N) prices for the relevant type and size of customer, combined with energy and retail operating costs (energy and retail costs represent the R component). As a result, regulated prices, with the exception of Tariff 11 and obsolete tariffs 3, were calculated by the QCA using this new methodology. 3.2 Impacts on the on-supply market The reforms that took effect on 1 July 2012 have impacted indirectly on on-supply pricing in the following manner: Because there are no regulated prices for large business customers in south east Queensland (SEQ), on-suppliers are reporting that they are uncertain as to the amount they can charge a business receiver that would be a large business customer if it were supplied by a retailer (that is, if the receiver was not in an on-supply arrangement and consumed 100 MWh per annum or more); The new tariff-setting methodology and the requirements of the Uniform Tariff Policy (where customers outside of SEQ should, to the extent possible, pay no more than similar customers in SEQ) is reportedly leading to a financial disconnect between the amount some large on-suppliers in the Ergon Energy distribution area (regional Queensland) are charged by their retailer, and the amount they can charge small business receivers; In SEQ, on-suppliers that are themselves large customers are also reporting a financial disconnect between market rates negotiated with their retailers and the maximum rates they may charge receivers consuming less than 100 MWh per annum. It is reported that on-suppliers may be unable to recover costs if required to charge these receivers no more than the Tariff 20 rate (Tariff 20 is the general flat-rate business supply tariff). These issues are presented in more detail below. 3.3 The impact of price deregulation for large business customers in SEQ Under section 20J(3) and 20J(4) of the Electricity Act, a receiver with metered premises is protected to the extent that an on-supplier is not allowed to charge the receiver above the lowest rate the receiver would have paid for the consumption had the receiver been a non-market customer of the relevant retailer (by definition, only non-market customers can access regulated prices). Prior to the recent deregulation of prices for large customers in SEQ, the application of section 20J meant that all metered receivers in Queensland were essentially charged at no more than the relevant regulated price. 3 Tariff 11 was frozen at rates due to election commitment (the cost of the Commonwealth Government s carbon tax was however passed through), and obsolete tariffs were escalated by the QCA at either 10% or 20%. Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 6

7 Because regulated pricing has been the basis for setting on-suppliers charges, recent changes have led to a degree of uncertainty in the on-supply market. DEWS, which administers the Electricity Act, has been contacted by on-suppliers and specialist energy consultants reporting that there is a lack of clarity regarding the way in which they should determine the rate of charge for large receivers in SEQ. 3.4 The impact of deregulation on on-suppliers in regional Queensland All small customers in Queensland have access to regulated prices. Furthermore, the Government s Uniform Tariff Policy ensures that all Queensland electricity customers of a similar type (for example residential, or small businesses) who access regulated prices (the prices determined by the QCA) pay the same price for electricity, regardless of where they live. That is, a small business customer accessing Tariff 20 in Brisbane pays the same rate as a small business customer accessing Tariff 20 in Longreach (despite the fact that the actual cost of supply is generally higher in regional Queensland than in SEQ). In order to comply with the Uniform Tariff Policy, the QCA used Energex network charges in developing regulated prices for small customers. While large business customers in SEQ do not have access to regulated prices after 1 July 2012 their regional Queensland counterparts continue to do so. The QCA developed certain regulated prices for large customers in Ergon Energy s supply area using Ergon Energy s East Zone (ie coastal) network tariffs as a basis. As a general rule, these are higher than Energex s network tariffs. Due to a number of concerns identified during the QCA s stakeholder consultation process (such as adverse customer impacts and practical problems associated with Ergon Energy s metering and billing systems), the QCA also retained the large customer regulated prices from the previous tariff year ( ), and escalated them by either 10% or 20%. These tariffs were retained on a transitional basis and it is expected that over time customers may be required to move to the new tariffs based on Ergon Energy s network tariffs. As a result of these changes, regulated prices for large and small customers in regional Queensland were determined on a somewhat different basis. Large customer tariffs are based on either Ergon Energy network charges or escalated tariffs (transitional tariffs) and are generally greater than small customer tariffs, which are based on Energex network charges. The differing rates in regulated pricing for small and large customers means that recovery of retail costs can be problematic for regional Queensland on-suppliers where: The on-supplier is a large customer and pays a large customer regulated price; and The on-supplier s receivers are the equivalent of small customers and should be required to pay (the on-supplier) no more than the relevant regulated price for small customers. Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 7

8 3.5 The impact of the new pricing methodology upon on-suppliers in SEQ The regulated prices were set using the cost-reflective N + R methodology, meaning that tariffs were created by way of a cost build-up incorporating network, energy and retail costs. This changed the balance between fixed and variable rates for some tariffs, including Tariff 20 and Tariff 22. For example: In , the Tariff 20 rates were made up of a fixed charge of around $173 per year and a variable charge of cents per kilowatt hour (GST exclusive). In , the Tariff 20 rates are made up of a fixed charge of around $392 per year and a variable charge of cents per kilowatt hour (GST exclusive). Certain on-suppliers in SEQ are now reporting that they are unable to negotiate (or re-negotiate) a price with their retailer that would allow them to recover their costs in circumstances where they are required to charge receivers no more than the regulated Tariff 20 rates. 4. Competition for customers in embedded networks In 2006, the former government adopted this policy position: 4 Queensland will delay the introduction of FRC to customers in an on-supply arrangement until a national harmonised solution is introduced. NEMMCO should continue to develop a national harmonised solution on embedded networks, including the allocation of responsible person to child customers. Queensland will adopt this national solution once the appropriate changes to the National Electricity Rules have been gazetted. Since that time the Australian Energy Market Operator has developed and issued (in 2009) a Guideline for Embedded Networks. This sets out how parent child metering (which enables retailer choice for child customers) is to be provided for in National Electricity Market procedures. Current market procedures dealing with embedded networks explicitly recognise the Queensland policy of no new embedded networks. Despite this, there is nothing to prevent Queensland from deciding to introduce retailer choice for child customers in an embedded network, and it is acknowledged that this arrangement exists in other states already, including in New South Wales and Victoria. 5. Other considerations The provisions of the National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) could, if adopted in Queensland, impact on Queensland on-supply arrangements. The Queensland Government has not yet considered whether to implement the NECF in Queensland, and the proposed package of reforms has been referred to the IDC for its consideration. This discussion paper is not canvassing views in regard to the proposed NECF package, however stakeholders may wish to highlight where on-supply arrangements could be impacted by the adoption of the NECF. 4 Energy Competition Committee Policy Decisions Paper No. 2: Electricity Full Retail Competition Final Policy Decisions. 26 July 2006 Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 8

9 6. Points for discussion DEWS are seeking comment from interested stakeholders on issues indentified in this paper and on any other aspect of existing Queensland on-supply arrangements. The intent is to canvass the full scope of current arrangements and provide a forum to discuss alternatives for consideration. Stakeholders have the opportunity to respond from a technical, economic, regulatory, commercial and/or implementation/administrative perspective. These questions may help guide discussion 1. Does this paper adequately summarise stakeholder concerns with Queensland s existing on-supply arrangements? Are there relevant matters or considerations that have not been raised? 2. What is the experience of stakeholders regarding on-supply and embedded network arrangements in other Australian jurisdictions? 3. Is there a case to introduce choice of retailer for child customers by adopting the Embedded Network Guideline? If so, can parent / child meters be implemented in a costeffective manner where the parent and child must both have the same meter type (interval or accumulation)? What factors might impede implementing any metering changes needed? 4. Would introducing parent/child metering help alleviate the issues raised in this paper? 5. Are there risks associated with altering the existing on-supply arrangements? 6. Are there issues arising in on-supply situations as a result of embedded generation that should be addressed as part of any regulatory or legislative changes being considered? 7. What other options/arrangements are available to help strengthen on-supply of electricity while satisfying consumer protection, contestability and commercial objectives? Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 9

10 7. Next Steps This paper has been released to tap into stakeholders experience with on-supply arrangements in Queensland and will be used to inform Queensland Government initiatives currently under way in the electricity sector. Further information on these initiatives can be accessed at: Responses and submissions should be sent to: Or Energy Sector Reform - Consumer and Retail Department of Energy and Water Supply PO Box 15456, City East Qld 4002 The closing date for submissions is close of business Friday 22 February PLEASE NOTE This is a public consultation process, and the Queensland Government is committed to openness in its considerations of public policy. For this reason, written comments and submission may be published on the DEWS website. Please mark clearly any comments or information you wish to be kept confidential. Electricity On-Supply in Queensland Discussion Paper 10

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