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Voluntary Embedded Networks Code of Practice Now Live

Registration is now open for Embedded Network Sellers to participate in the Voluntary Embedded Networks Code of Practice. The implementation of this code comes amidst a broader review of the regulatory landscape governing electricity retail licensing and exemptions by the WA State Government.

An Embedded Network Seller is the entity responsible for the supply of Electricity to Customers in an Embedded Network. For most apartment complexes, this will likely be the Strata Company, or a third-party contractor outsourced by the Strata Company such as Bright Connect.

As part of this review, the government is introducing the Alternative Electricity Services (AES) regulatory framework to ensure adequate protections are available for consumers of alternative electricity business models and services.

EN Code of Practice

Legislative amendments to the Electricity Industry Act 2004 to give effect to the AES framework were introduced into Parliament on 15 August 2023, in the form of the Electricity Industry Amendment (Alternative Electricity Services) Bill 2023.

Under the framework, services can be prescribed as an AES by regulations, and providers of those services will need to register and comply with obligations contained in a single code of practice, the Alternative Electricity Services Code (AES Code). The AES Code will be supported by provisions for compliance and enforcement, and a mechanism for resolving disputes between service providers and consumers.

Energy Policy WA is contemplating the inclusion of Embedded Networks within the AES framework, potentially obliging Embedded Network Sellers to offer specific customer protections.

To prepare for these changes, Energy Policy WA has requested feedback on the Voluntary Embedded Networks Code of Practice. This code, aimed at safeguarding the interests of end-use customers, has now been finalised. Embedded network sellers are encouraged to comply with its provisions during the voluntary phase until September 2024. The insights garnered during this period will shape the development of mandatory obligations under the AES framework, due for implementation by early 2025, with compliance enforcement scheduled to commence in 2026.

Bright Connect has registered for the Voluntary Code of Practise and will be providing feedback to Energy Policy WA.

Let’s explore the key requirements outlined in the Voluntary Embedded Networks Code of Practice:

Section 1: Introduction and Application of the Code

    • The section outlines the objective of the Code, which is to establish standards of conduct for Embedded Network Sellers (ENS) in supplying electricity and related services to customers. It seeks to ensure fair and transparent practices in the provision of these services.

Section 2: Embedded Network Sellers (ENS)

    • Discusses ENS and their limitations, responsibilities, and approval process. It states that an Embedded Network must have only one ENS and outlines cases where an ENS is not required. The ENS is defined as the entity responsible for supplying electricity to customers in an Embedded Network, either by holding a contract for purchasing electricity from the grid or by approval from the Coordinator of Energy. Additionally, the ENS is accountable for ensuring compliance with the Code by any third-party contractors engaged by them, and any breach by these contractors is considered a breach by the ENS.

Section 3: General Obligations

    • Details the general obligations of ENS regarding electricity supply within embedded networks. This includes the requirement for a Supply Agreement with each customer, obligations related to supply continuity, and responsibilities upon taking over as the ENS for an embedded network.

Section 4: Information

    • Outlines the requirements for providing information to customers by ENS. It mandates that ENS must provide customers with a Disclosure Statement before supplying electricity. Additionally, if the Code necessitates providing information to customers (excluding Disclosure Statements), ENS can fulfil this obligation by using standard form documents published by Energy Policy WA if available. All information provided to customers must be clear, simple, concise, and easily understandable.

Section 5: Metering

    • Focuses on metering requirements for ENS. It mandates that each supply address supplied by an ENS must have an individual meter, except under specific circumstances outlined in the Code. Any Customer Meter installed after the publication of the Code must comply with relevant specifications and standards. ENS must inform customers about the type of meter installed at their supply address upon request, including whether it’s an Interval Meter, and must also disclose any costs associated with changing the meter. If a customer requests an Interval Meter and agrees to cover the costs, the ENS must install it. Customers can request testing of their meters, which the ENS must perform within a reasonable time, and can only charge a fee if the meter is found to be functioning properly.

Section 6: Billing

    • Covers the billing procedures for ENS. It mandates that ENS must issue bills to customers at least once every 60 days, with an option to agree upon a different billing cycle, subject to certain conditions. Bills must contain various details such as supply address, customer details, meter identification, consumption, applicable tariff, payment due date, and contact information. ENS must use reasonable efforts to read meters for billing purposes and may estimate bills if meter readings are not feasible, with appropriate disclosures. Customers have the right to request meter readings and review bills, and ENS must respond promptly.

Section 7: Tariffs and Pricing

    • Outlines the regulations regarding tariffs and prices for ENS. It mandates that the Supply Agreement between the ENS and the customer must include details such as the Default Flat Rate Tariff, any agreed alternative tariffs, applicable fees, and the conditions under which tariffs may be varied. ENS must provide customers with information on tariffs, fees, and charges upon request and notify them in advance of any changes to these. Tariffs, fees, and charges must adhere to restrictions specified in the Supply Agreement and may only be escalated or amended as permitted by law and as agreed upon in the agreement.

Section 8: Financial Hardship

    • Addresses financial hardship assistance for customers of ENS. ENS must develop, maintain, and implement a hardship policy to aid residential customers in financial distress. This policy must offer additional time to pay, payment plans, fee waivers or reductions, information on available assistance and concessions, access to financial counselling services, and be available on the ENS’s website. Non-residential customers facing payment difficulties can request alternative payment arrangements, which the ENS must consider in good faith.

Section 9: Family Violence

    • Addresses family violence support for residential customers of ENS. If a residential customer informs the ENS of being affected by family violence or if the ENS has reason to believe so, they must treat the customer accordingly and inform them of their family violence policy. ENS supplying residential customers must develop, maintain, and implement a family violence policy to assist affected customers. This policy must offer additional time to pay, payment plans, fee waivers or reductions, safe communication methods, privacy protection, considerations during debt collection, and must be available on the ENS’s website.

Section 10: Disconnection and Interruptions

    • Specifies circumstances under which disconnection or interruption of electricity supply may occur within embedded networks. It outlines procedures for issuing disconnection notices, handling emergency disconnections, and communicating planned interruptions.

Section 11: Reconnection

    • Requires prompt reconnection of electricity supply once disconnection reasons are resolved by the customer. It outlines procedures for reconnection requests, reconnection fees, and timelines for reconnection.

Section 12: Dispute Resolution

    • Section 12 mandates that an ENS must establish a complaints and dispute resolution procedure, following Australian/New Zealand Standard 10002:2022, detailing how complaints and disputes are lodged, handled, and resolved. It outlines processes for acknowledgment, response times, and notification of outcomes. If a complaint relates to billing, the ENS must reconsider the bill and inform the customer of the outcome within a reasonable timeframe.

Section 13: Life Support Equipment

    • Section 13 outlines the procedures regarding Life Support Equipment for customers within an Embedded Network. If a customer provides written confirmation from a qualified medical practitioner that someone at their address requires Life Support Equipment, the ENS must maintain a register of this information and keep it updated annually.

Section 14: Request to offset supply of Electricity with other characteristics

    • Allows customers to request offsetting their electricity’s carbon emissions with renewable energy within Embedded Networks. It outlines procedures for accommodating such requests and providing evidence of offsetting.

Section 15: DER assets not owned by a Customer

    • Prohibits fees on customers for maintaining, repairing, or insuring Distributed Energy Resources (DER) assets (such as solar PV) not owned by them within Embedded Networks. It outlines customer rights regarding maintenance, repair, and insurance of such assets.

The Voluntary Embedded Networks Code of Practice can be found here:

If you would like advice on what the proposed regulations mean for your Embedded Network, or if you would like to discuss your options for outsourcing the obligations, please get in touch with us.