Deakin law and mining students recently gained an insider view into the challenges of national energy regulation at a seminar presented by Australian Energy Regulator CEO, Michelle Groves.
Organised by Professor Samantha Hepburn, Deakin Energy, the event was hosted by law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth and well attended by Deakin students, staff, alumni and industry representatives.
In the past two decades, Australia’s energy market has undergone a revolution. The traditional one-way model of generation, transmission, distribution and retail is now replaced by new technologies, new providers and new customer choices.
Ms Groves spoke about the AER’s role in a transitioning energy landscape which covered topics around the structure of the energy industry, governance arrangements, regulatory frameworks, reforms and challenges, and new developments.
‘Peak demand is rising, particularly in Queensland and NSW. Coal generators are being retired and not being replaced and high gas fuel costs are contributing to high electricity prices. Consequently, there is growing investment in renewable generation but uncertainty about governments’ energy and climate change policies is affecting investor confidence. The AER has a new role in monitoring the competitiveness of the National Electricity Market, including deterrents to competition,’ said Ms Groves.
The goal of the AER is to set a maximum allowance that the networks are permitted to recover from customers. It’s also focused on investment in, and efficient operation and use of, electricity services for the long-term interests of consumers.
A master of laws graduate, Ms Groves has held the position of CEO since May 2005 and has over 20 years’ experience implementing national competition policy, energy market reform and utility regulation.
Prof. Hepburn said it was wonderful to have Ms Groves share her expertise with the next generation of energy lawyers and regulators.
‘It was a superb and engaging presentation … these are critically important regulatory and policy issues that young law students need to be aware of. Michelle was inspirational in her discussion about what the future of energy generation and transmission might look like and how these areas might need to be addressed at the policy and regulatory level. To this extent, the presentation connects to the core topics students are taught during the Mining and Energy Law course at DLS.’
With the progression of a decarbonised economy – where the AER plays a new and vitally important role in monitoring the competitiveness of the national electricity market – Prof. Hepburn said it was crucially important topic.
‘This role must be contextualised within a framework of growing investment in renewable energy, the retirement of large coal fired generators and their non-replacement, peak demand for electricity is rising, domestic gas prices are escalating (particularly within the Eastern market) and the uncertainty regarding our national climate change and energy policy – and the focus of the national energy guarantee – is impacting investor confidence.’