ACCC to probe Australia’s energy companies

By Anna Macdonald

Tuesday June 21, 2022

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued an update on the recent electricity market challenges, saying it will fulfil a government request to investigate the energy market.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said federal treasurer Jim Chalmers, alongside state and territory energy ministers, have written to the agency on how to address the energy crisis. 

“Under direction from the federal government, we will use our full information-gathering powers to provide greater transparency around the factors influencing electricity and gas prices, including profits and margins from a wide range of energy companies,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“In line with the treasurer’s request, we will also assess and bring to the government’s attention any need for regulatory change to ensure electricity and gas markets function properly for the benefit of all Australian consumers.”

Cass-Gottlieb said the first report would be released in July. 

The ACCC has reported wholesale electricity prices at the start of June were about five times higher than in Q1 2022, increasing from $341/MWh to $590/MWh depending on the region. 

The commission has said external factors such as the war in Ukraine, a colder winter and reliance on ageing coal infrastructure have exacerbated the challenges already faced by Australia’s energy market. 

“We are acutely aware of the pressures that rapidly rising energy prices are placing on Australian households and businesses,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We are working closely with our colleagues at the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to monitor the market and to take action against conduct harming competition or consumers and to preserve the competitiveness of our energy markets.”

Earlier this month, the ACCC chair co-signed two letters with AER chair Clare Savage cautioning energy retailers and market participants that their core responsibility lies with the customer. 

The commission has also released its May 2022 Inquiry into the National Electricity Market report, which noted an increase in the use of solar power and smart meters. 

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