1 February 2013 — A study of licensed electricity retailers active in the National Electricity Market has found it is not possible for customers to calculate the emissions intensity or fuel mix of the electricity sold by particular retailers from publicly available information.

The Energy Retailer Disclosure Study was prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney and commissioned by Total Environment Centre.

It examined three areas:

  • “Fuel mix: in the absence of publicly available information on the fuel mix of electricity sold, this report examines ownership of generation assets, including the proportion of capacity from renewable energy sources, as a step towards reporting the fuel mix of electricity offered to customers. Unfortunately current data does not allow the fuel mix and carbon intensity of electricity offered to consumers to be calculated.
  • Commitment to renewable energy: commitment to renewable energy development in Australia (specifically support for decentralised renewable energy generation, the carbon price and mandatory Renewable Energy Target, and level of GreenPower sales)
  • Commitment to sustainability: publishing of a GRI-compliant sustainability report, presence of a corporate Environmental Policy, and an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and participation in sustainability benchmarking systems.”

The study also found the total retail sales to customers reported by electricity retailers is available for only four out of 36 retailers (from annual reports), although data on GreenPower sales was available for all retailers.

“Thus it is not generally possible to report the percentage which GreenPower contributes to sales,” the study reported.

“Approximately 33 per cent of licensed electricity retailers provide a solar feed-in tariff above the mandated tariff, 19 per cent publicly offer the mandated tariff, leaving 58 per cent of retailers in Australia who do not provide consumers with information on feed in tariffs, although presumably they will offer the mandated feed in tariff if approached.

“The two retailers that perform the highest with respect to sustainability reporting (that is, a report independently certified to GRI “A” application level) have different characteristics, with AGL Energy as a gentailer operating in all six states and Metered Energy Holdings operating in only NSW as a pure retailer.

“All retailers who participate in sustainability benchmarks are also gentailers (with Momentum Energy, TrustPower and Red Energy being subsidiaries of gentailers).

“The findings of this report are in line with the findings of the NEM Report Card study completed by ISF and Monash University for the Total Environment Centre in 2011 which found limited publicly available data on the performance of the NEM in relation to the long term interest of consumers.

“The NEM Report Card recommended additional criteria be included in the National Electricity Objective to require relevant, reliable and consistent data be collected and reported on a range of social and environmental criteria including greenhouse gas emissions (emissions intensity and emissions per unit of energy generated), demand management, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“The results of this report provide a strong case for further analysis, as Australian consumers have the right to know the carbon intensity of the electricity they purchase. In the short term, this could be achieved by a survey of electricity retailers.  An Electricity Retailer Survey could provide a ranking of environmental performance of suppliers in the National Electricity Market.

“The ranking could employ a criteria and weighting system based on three areas; fuel mix, renewable energy commitment, and energy saving commitment.”

TEC executive director Jeff Angel said it was clear that people needed advice on which companies were greener alternatives.

Various non-government organisations have started work on that, he said.

Mr Angel said a critical part of the move to a clean energy economy, related to how and where the retailers got their electricity from but about which there was very little available information in the public domain.

“The report highlights the need for more publicly available information in an easy to understand form,” said TEC energy campaigner Mark Byrne.

“The data in the report had to be dredged from multiple sources.

“We call on governments and regulators to ensure that retailers publish data every year on the fuel mix and emissions intensity of their sales volume.

“In the meantime, we’ll work with other environment and consumer groups to take the ISF research to the next stage.

“This is likely to involve a survey and ranking of retailers similar to the successful Green Electricity Watch, which TEC ran from 2003-2007.”