PIAC lodged a submission to the COAG Energy Council’s consultation which proposes giving the AER greater power to compel individuals to appear before it to give evidence as well as changes to the civil penalty regime under the National Energy Law. PIAC supports the intent of the proposed reforms and also supports the submissions put forward by Energy Consumers Australia and the Consumer Action Law Centre.
More broadly, PIAC supports the AER being an ‘expert’ regulator with the necessary powers and discretion to give primacy to achieving the National Electricity Objective. Therefore, the AER should be able to, if it feels it is warranted, use its proposed powers to compel individuals to appear before it and give evidence across all of its functions – which includes enforcement and economic regulation. While PIAC does not consider the exercise of this power would or should become commonplace, it provides an important mechanism to assist the AER make robust and defensible decisions in the long-term interests of energy consumers.