The ACCC is proposing in a draft determination to deny authorisation for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and electricity industry participants in the National Electricity Market to coordinate the scheduling of repairs, maintenance, renewals upgrades and new connections and associated information sharing.
The ACCC recognises the challenges in the transition to increased reliance on renewable electricity sources and has taken into account the current energy market reforms designed to better equip AEMO and the electricity industry to manage the National Electricity Market.
“While there are challenges arising from the transition towards renewable electricity, currently we do not consider that the proposed coordination would significantly increase AEMO’s ability to manage the scheduling of outages,” ACCC Acting Chair Mick Keogh said.
Coordination and information sharing between competitors can breach competition laws. ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that could raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA). The ACCC can only authorise these arrangements if the public benefits from the coordination outweigh the detriment.
“We are not currently satisfied that the proposed coordination is likely to result in public benefits that would outweigh the likely harm to competition, given AEMO’s existing powers,” Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC considers that the reforms recently implemented, soon to be implemented and those currently being contemplated by the Australian Energy Market Commission will further assist AEMO to manage the scheduling of outages during the transition to renewable electricity generation.
Conditional interim authorisation for these arrangements remains in place while AEMO and electricity industry participants have the opportunity to respond to the draft determination, before the ACCC makes it final decision.
Further details about the application and how to make a submission are available on the ACCC’s public register website.
AEMO is the independent market and system operator for gas and electricity systems across Australia, including the National Electricity Market. Its members include both government and industry participants.
Since 2020, the ACCC has authorised broader coordination arrangements for the AEMO and industry participants on a number of occasions. Initially, these were to respond to issues arising from the impact of COVID-19. More recently, in November 2022, authorisation was granted to allow industry coordination to respond to the energy crisis at that time. That authorisation expired on 30 April 2023.
Section 91 of the CCA allows the ACCC to grant interim authorisation when it considers it is appropriate. This allows the parties to engage in the proposed conduct while the ACCC is considering the merits of the substantive application.
Broadly, the ACCC may grant authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment.