AGL is one of Australia’s oldest companies and as an essential service provider, we have a daily impact on our customers’ lives.
Our role in homes and businesses is a huge responsibility and it is something that I keep at the front of my mind - but on this front, our job will never be ‘done’. We will always work to do more for our customers and the community.
Today I gave the opening address to the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) Energy, Water and Telco conference in Adelaide, and offered my thoughts on what it means to put customers at the heart.
When I became the CEO of AGL in August 2018, I made it clear that the customer must be central to everything we do as a business. Whether our people are on the phones to customers, working on strategy, or wearing high-vis fixing a boiler at one of our sites, we all need to connect our role to the customer and think about what we can do for those individuals and businesses who rely on us for energy.
We acknowledge that energy prices can be the source of enormous stress and we are committed to making energy more affordable. This means supporting vulnerable customers and taking action to help all customers in the short and long-term.
Steps we’re taking to address affordability
In August 2018, we announced a $50 million debt relief package where we completely wrote off all debt older than a year for customers on our hardship program.
In January 2019, we were the first retailer to introduce a safety net for standing offer electricity customers. This means that if our customers are still on a standing offer after a year, they automatically receive a discount.
We have also been supporting financial counselling partnerships, a Uniting Communities appliance upgrade program, and we’ve committed $6 million to an energy literacy funding program.
While these measures are helping, we know that there is still more to do.
Taking a long-term view
Investing in additional energy supply is the best way to improve energy reliability and affordability. We currently have $1.9 billion of energy supply projects under development – and another $1.5 billion being assessed for feasibility.
In South Australia we’ve just announced the right to develop, own and operate a 250MW pumped hydro project at Hillgrove Resource’s copper mine in Kanmantoo, and our 210MW Barker Inlet gas peaking station is progressing well.
Beyond new projects, the planned maintenance and efficiency upgrades in our existing generation infrastructure serves to increase the output of these generation sites, but not the emissions.
Working together in customers best interests
While we don’t have all the answers, I am committed to working on this and putting the customer at the centre of our business so we can continue to meet their needs and hopefully exceed expectations.
I do recognise however that we can achieve more together to improve customer outcomes. This responsibility to the customer is best shared across all parts of the energy supply chain, as recognised in the Energy Charter - and shared across all providers of modern essential services including water, energy, telco and banking, as recognised in the Thriving Communities partnership.
Update: in February 2020, AGL and Hillgrove Resources Limited, which owns the Kanmantoo site, mutually agreed to not continue with the proposed pumped hydro project. However, AGL remains committed to continuing the development of energy storage projects such as batteries and pumped hydro to providing firming capacity to the market.
These projects include a 100 MW battery in Wandoan, Queensland, a 30 MW battery in South Australia, and four 50 MW batteries to be built in NSW. We are also investigating the feasibility of a 250 MW pumped hydro plant at Bells Mountain in NSW, and a 50 MW battery at Broken Hill.