Are you embedded electricity-wise?

Article published 22 July 2019

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IF you live in a retirement village or caravan park, you are likely to get your electricity, gas and water through what is known as embedded networks. An embedded network is a network run not by an energy company but the owner or operator of a retirement village or caravan park. The owner or operator is known as an exempt seller.

Some apartment complexes are also supplied through embedded networks, although they are usually not.

Embedded networks are estimated to serve close to half a million people in Australia.

If you are in an embedded network, you can buy your electricity from either an authorised energy retailer or an exempt seller. However, customers in an embedded network may have difficulty buying energy from a seller other than from the exempt seller. This is because of the way the network has been wired or because energy retailers may not want to sell to a customer inside an embedded network.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has recently completed a regulatory review for embedded electricity networks.

The AEMC found many customers have been subject to poor service, price gouging and difficulty leaving embedded networks for better retail offers. An extreme example of poor service is not notifying life support customers of upcoming energy supply interruptions: there is no rule that says that notification has to be given.

The AEMC has recommended a number of changes to support the needs of consumers rather than the business model of suppliers.

Network charges should be capped at a level no greater than what a customer could receive from a local network.

Protections in areas such as billing information, payment options and notification of planned outages should be improved.

It should be made easier for authorised energy retailers to compete in embedded networks in order to give customers more competitively-priced choices.

The Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council will now review the AEMC’s recommendations and decide on changes to electricity and energy retail laws.

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