Australia's consumer energy data to be made open under CDR

Consumers will soon be able to easily compare and switch energy service providers.

The Australian government has officially extended the Consumer Data Right (CDR), which provides consumers greater access to their personal data, to include energy services to give consumers the chance to compare and easily switch energy providers.

"30% of electricity consumers do not switch due to the effort required and 22% due to lack of information," Minister for Energy Angus Taylor said.

"A consumer would be around AU$1,000 better off by switching from the worst to the best electricity plan in both New South Wales and South Australia. A small business would be over AU$7,000 better off in South Australia and over AU$4,500 better off in Victoria from a similar switch."

As part of extending the CDR to energy, the federal government has released a consultation paper [PDF] to seek feedback on the datasets and data access model that will apply to the energy sector.

According to Treasury, the feedback for the consultation -- which will be open until September 26 -- will be used to establish a framework to help consumers find and switch between energy deals, to incentivise greater competition between energy retailers, and deliver new retail products to help consumers better manage their energy use.

Some of the specific issues that the paper looks to address are what datasets should be designated to support basic energy retail product comparison and switching use cases; what datasets are required to support more advanced use cases, such as, whether consumers should adopt smart meters, solar panels, battery storage, and/or more energy efficient appliances; and what other datasets should be designated in the energy sector to support use cases not identified in this document.

The datasets that Treasury has proposed should be used are: National metering identifier standing data fields; metering data; customer provided data, which could include a customer's full name, contact details, date of birth, and information on data access authorisations under the CDR; billing data; retail product data; and distributed energy resource register data.

See also; How to request your personal data under GDPR (TechRepublic)

In addition, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), which was tasked with implementing the CDR, has released its position paper [PDF] on the data access model for the energy sector, following consultation that was conducted earlier this year.

The ACCC announced in February that energy data would join the CDR mandate in early 2020.  

In the position paper, the ACCC has proposed to use the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) gateway model for sharing electricity market data, which means the AEMO will provide data on consumer's current electricity arrangements from their current provider to trusted third parties when authorised by the consumer.

"The gateway model best balances functionality, cost effectiveness, flexibility and security while also leveraging AEMO's data and IT expertise. It allows AEMO to facilitate the rollout of the CDR to the energy sector, helping to reduce implementation costs particularly for smaller energy retailers," ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.

The consumer watchdog came to this conclusion after weighing the pros and cons of the gateway model with other models -- the AEMO centralised model and the economy-wide model.

The ACCC will now develop rules to accommodate energy-specific arrangements, including appropriate authorisation and authentication models. The ACCC will continue to consult with stakeholders on the next stages in the development of the CDR.

Eventually, the feedback from the dataset consultation carried out by the federal government will also be used to inform the ACCC's development of the rules that would govern the operation of the AEMO gateway model.

The CDR for energy will initially apply to the National Electricity Market, which excludes Western Australia and the Northern Territory, before it's expanded to other energy markets over time.

The extension of the CDR to energy comes as the policy was officially applied to the banking sector in July under the open banking regime. Under this mandate, from February 2020, ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Westpac will be required to give consumers greater access to the information they hold on consumers; and the power to require those banks to provide safe and secure access to that information to trusted third parties.

This is despite the fact the ACCC had revealed earlier this year it was unsure how banks could provide consumers with their data, but took a red marker to the calendar to say ANZ, CBA, NAB, and Westpac needed to make consumer data available on credit and debit card, deposit, and transaction accounts, at minimum, by the start of the 2020 financial year.

It was only in March did the ACCC release a draft document detailing the rules that would guide the implementation of the CDR would look like.

Prior to the release of the guidelines, the Australian Privacy Foundation said the CDR privacy safeguards were not sufficient, and that the government had "severely" underestimated the need for more thought across the entire legislative change.

Meanwhile, the Communications Alliance has been concerned that the legislation will not be overly applicable to industries other than banking, and that the rushed through process will result in a disjointed framework that is not well thought out.

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