14 Feb 2022

Regulatory Changes and Reforms in Australia

with Arun Sri, Product Manager, Gentrack

Utilities are faced with rapidly changing regulatory changes and need to adapt to satisfy a diverse range of customer, business and compliance demands.

Ensuring billing and customer management solutions remain robust with a focus on accuracy and reliability is core to the Gentrack solutions we provide our customers. Protecting consumers is also at the forefront of these changes and we spoke to Arun Sri, Product Manager at Gentrack on the current state of play for key energy market reforms in Australia.

You work closely with the Customer and Delivery teams – What is Gentrack’s approach to regulatory changes?

Our approach to regulatory changes is proactive. We keep an eye on any market changes that will affect our customers through consultation papers, discussion papers from sources such as the Australian Energy Regulator, AEMO which converts the technical specifications and The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC). Our process from there includes:

  • Conducting an impact assessment for our solutions and our customers
  • We present and discuss the rule changes with our customers and advise the key points of awareness and the requirements
  • We develop and showcase our solution/s iteratively with our customers
  • If there are post-development such as AEMO amendments, we further analyse and discuss this with our customers

Our customers’ business processes do differ, and we consider this when developing the solutions and triggers accordingly. From there we start building the new features and implement the business rules well in advance to ensure our customers can perform User Acceptance Testing in plenty of time for the go-live date of the changes.

Whilst we undergo these changes to meet the compliance and regulatory rules pending, we take the time to review the UX of our products and this is a piece of work that is always evolving.

We also view any upcoming changes as an opportunity to address concerns on the stability of the grid impacted by intermittent and distributed renewable generation.

We encourage our customers to adopt innovative products and offers that will help consumers adopt clean energy solutions using sustainable energy sources such Solar PV and other distributed energy resources (DERs).

Over the next 6 – 12 months can you outline the major changes that are set to hit Australia?

We are always working on multiple changes that affect the utilities sector at any given time, but the major changes over the next two to three quarters include:

Consumer Data Rights: This is a mandated regulatory change with the Australian government introducing Consumer Data rights to provide consumers greater access and control over their data. This will improve the end user’s ability to compare and switch between products and services and provide transparency when requesting the data be transferred to accredited recipients.

For our customers it will also provide insight on consumer behaviour.

Better Bills: This change is still in consultation, but the rule change proposal seeks to simplify energy bills so household and small business owners can better understand and manage their bills. It covers both gas and electricity bills.

MSAT Standing Data Review (MSATS): This is a mandated regulatory change and according to AEMO provided an opportunity to ensure MSATS Standing Data reflects the needs of the market by standardising the data and ensuring that data is complete, accurate and useful.

This will have a positive impact on billing and driving other business processes, improving the outcomes for electricity consumers. This regulatory change will assist in identifying which consumers have a shared fuse arrangements and will be beneficial when raising meter service requests.

For our customers this will give them the ability to input, validate, send, receive, store, process and display amended and new standing data fields.

We have other regulatory changes that we will work on that are specific to certain States in Australia such as the “reference pricing” and “better offer” changes in the ACT.

Five Minute Settlement (5MS) and Customer Switching regulatory changes went live in Australia in 2021 , can you tell us about the scope of the project?

This was a large successful project that involved our Australian customers.

The development of Gentrack’s Meter Data Services on AWS (MDS) predates the 5MS industry changes, but it fast-tracked the urgency and implementation of the service with the need to process large volumes of interval meter data.

To meet the regulatory changes and provide high availability, resilience, and scalability to back-end systems we needed to consider the increase in data changes and assess our customers current IT systems in handling the increased load.

There were about 70 industry procedures affected by the 5MS changes and up to six times more meter data to manager and store. This change became a critical enabler for the industry need of real time billing and we have had great customer feedback since go live including greater staff efficiency and productivity and reduction of operational costs due to the elimination of manual processes.

In terms of the Customer Switching changes, this is of a huge benefit to the consumer allowing them to change electricity provider in a 2-day transfer. It not only streamlines the process but means the consumer can benefit from their new electricity plan sooner.

We’ve certainly celebrated the success of the project both internally and collaboratively with our customers.

Consumer Data Right (CDR) is currently in the spotlight – what are the benefits to the end consumer and what is involved in this mandatory regulatory change?

CDR authorises the sharing of consumer data from an existing provider to an accredited third party to help consumers compare and access better energy deals. The introduction is expected to enable access to innovative products and services to best support consumers’ energy needs.

Additional benefits of CDR to our C&I customers includes automated sales processes including capturing of meter data and standing data automatically – reducing manual handling of data and the opportunity for a much more efficient process.

How does the UX/UI of the solution updates come into play when approaching Compliance and Regulatory changes?

As I mentioned UX/UI is an integral part of our approach to changes. We are solution led, but also very design led.
Staff efficiency for our customers is at the forefront of our decision-making process and we always want to ensure our solutions are user friendly. This not only improves efficiency and staff productivity but a smooth process for training new staff.

About Arun

Arun is a Product Manager at Gentrack and specialises in digital processes. With over a decade of experience in the Utilities industry he knew very early in his career that he wanted to be involved in the digital and technology space. He is passionate about renewables and believes that everyone needs to do their part in the transition to cleaner energy.

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