HE’S in charge of the country’s largest electricity network and he’s been touring regional NSW talking power prices.
It’s a hot topic in households around Australia and the halls of parliament and Essential Energy chief executive officer John Cleland has been meeting with residential customers and businesses in regional NSW talking power.
Tamworth was the last stop on the talking and listening tour which is part of the Essential Energy’s preparation for its 2019-24 regulatory submission.
This submission, to the Australia Energy Regulator, will determine how much revenue the company can earn during those five years, in turn dictating the distribution charges for consumers.
The message has been clear, Mr Cleland says.
“Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is, what consumers are actually looking for is lower energy charges,” he told The Leader.
In order to reduce charges, the company has to reduce costs, which it has done in a number of way, including the departure of close to 1500 employees over the last four years.
“There is an inevitable trade-off between the number of people we employ and the total cost of operating the business,” Mr Cleland said.
“So, on the one hand, we’re very conscious of the role we play in regional communities and the extent to which we are one of the largest regional employers across NSW.
“We’re also incredibly cognisant of the fact families are under enormous pressure, in terms of their power bills, and we need to do everything we possibly can to reduce power bills and reduce our operating cost.
“We have to do both.”
The distribution charge for Essential Energy makes up about 36 per cent of a residential power bill.
Mr Cleland said the company is embracing technology as it looks at ways to further minimise its operating costs.
“Our network is a challenging network to manage from a logistical and monitoring perspective,” he said.
“We’re using aerial photography extensively to reduce physical inspection.
“We’re also using drones to undertake quite a bit of our inspection work now, as opposed to using elevated work platforms or cherry-pickers.”
The company is also looking at incentives and methods for consuming power at off peak times.
“For example, the energy management system won’t allow them to run more than say five appliances concurrently, is they’re on a time of use tariff and additional consumption will create additional cost for them,” Mr Cleland said.