In November 2017, the Victorian Government published an update to the General Exemption Order1 (GEO) which came into operation on 1 April 20182. As reported in our previous article, the updated GEO changes the regulatory framework in relation to the exemptions which apply to the generation, supply or sale of electricity in Victoria.
In addition to changes to the exemptions which apply to such activities, the GEO update also introduced new requirements which apply to those who engage in the supply and sale of electricity, providers under solar power purchase agreements and community energy projects which seek exemption under the GEO (non-licensed electricity providers).
One of the key new requirements is that most of the non-licensed electricity providers are required to register for exempt activities in a new public register which has been established by the Essential Services Commission (ESC) and became available on 17 May 2018. The purpose of the register is to provide more transparency - for both the regulator and the public - in relation to this category of electricity providers (which is showing exponential growth). It will also provide better consumer protection for customers of these providers.
The new registration primarily applies to non-licensed electricity providers who engage in the supply and sale of electricity as well as providers under solar power purchase agreements and community energy projects.
Based on the registration guidelines issued by the ESC, the following process will apply:
Non-licensed electricity providers who are currently supplying or selling electricity and are required to register with the ESC under the updated GEO, must do so by 30 June 20183.
Non-licensed electricity providers who will supply or sell electricity after 30 June 2018 must register with the ESC before it begins such activities.
Registration is done via an online portal.
The non-licensed electricity provider will be required to create an online account and answer a series of questions. Information sought includes:
- legal name, trading name, and ABN of provider;
- contact details of the provider;
- date from which registration will be in force;
- site details where the activity is being carried out – this is not required for solar power purchase agreement exemptions;
- type of activity being carried out and information to confirm such activity does not require an electricity licence;
- number of customers being sold or supplied electricity; and
- for providers who have already been operating for at least one year – an estimate of the aggregate yearly electricity consumption at the site.
Once the online registration process has been completed, a summary of the information in bold above will be published on the public register (the other information will not be published). In some instances, the ESC may require verification of the submitted information before it is published on the register.
Once the information is published, the non-licensed electricity provider is officially 'registered' and able to operate under the relevant exemption of the GEO.
Solar power purchase agreement providers only need to register once for all of their exempt activities (and not per site). Community energy projects will need to register per site.
Changes to information
All registration details on the register need to be updated annually.
In addition, if there are material changes to the information on the register, this needs to be notified to the ESC as soon as practicable. This includes information such as the nature of the exempt activity but does not extend to changes in customer numbers as the ESC understands such details may fluctuate throughout the year.
There are no fees for registering with the ESC.
Other exemption requirements
To benefit from the exemption under the GEO, the non-licensed electricity provider needs to comply with the relevant obligations which apply to such exempt activity. This includes:
providing information regarding the customer's rights under the Australian Consumer Law; complying with the Distribution Code and Retail Code; complying with pricing rules; and entering into an approved customer dispute resolution scheme.
It is important to register with the ESC if required under the GEO as a failure to do so will mean such supply of electricity, even if otherwise exempt, is an offence.
2 GEO 2017 came into operation on 1 April 2018 with the exception of clause 11 (customer dispute resolution) which comes into operation on 1 July 2018.18.
3 While this is not stated on the registration portal, or other published materials, we were notified of this directly by the ESC.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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