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COAG Energy Council gives consumers a stronger voice

30 January 2015

Joint media release with the South Australian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, the Hon Tom Koutsantonis MP

The COAG Energy Council has delivered the latest in a series of reforms to give consumers a stronger voice by establishing Energy Consumers Australia, a new body that will increase consumer advocacy in the national energy policy arena.

Energy Consumers Australia’s inaugural board was today jointly announced by Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane and South Australian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Tom Koutsantonis.

Respected consumer advocate Louise Sylvan will chair the five person board that brings together a wealth of experience across consumer protection and advocacy, energy markets and regulation.

“Energy Consumers Australia will provide a strong voice for all those that use energy and want competitive and transparent prices, particularly residential and small business consumers,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Energy users will now be able to engage on issues like the price, quality, safety, reliability and security of supply of energy services in a more meaningful way.”

As former CEO of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, a former Productivity Commission member and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair, Ms Sylvan is well qualified to chair the new board as it establishes the organisation and provides much-needed national focus on issues important to energy consumers.

Ms Sylvan will be joined by Steven Graham, Catherine Cooper, Clare Petre and Gillian Owen.

Mr Koutsantonis said the announcement of the Energy Consumers Australia board is the next step towards empowering energy consumers, and follows legislative changes made in the South Australian Parliament last December.

“Energy Consumers Australia will build its own in-house research and advocacy capabilities to explore emerging issues of strategic importance to energy consumers, particularly households and small business,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“The board will work closely with consumer advocates, ombudsman, industry, regulators and governments to build a collegiate approach to advocacy across the country.”

Biographies of members are below and further information on Energy Consumers Australia is available on the COAG Energy Council website: www.scer.gov.au/?s=energy+consumers+australia.

Media contacts:
Mr Macfarlane's office 02 6277 7070
Mr Koutsantonis' office 0418 171 279

ENERGY CONSUMERS AUSTRALIA BOARD MEMBERS

Louise Sylvan (Chair) - Ms Sylvan is the former chief executive officer of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. Ms Sylvan was a commissioner of the Productivity Commission and previously deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission where she was appointed for her expertise in consumer affairs.  Ms Sylvan was formerly the chief executive of the Australian Consumers' Association and president of Consumers International.

Steven Graham - Steven Graham has had a distinguished career primarily in the energy sector. He retired as chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Commission in August 2013, a position he held from 2006, commencing shortly after the establishment of the organisation in mid-2005.  He has held several commercial and change management roles across the national electricity market and government. At the Australian Energy Market Commission Mr Graham was responsible for the establishment of a highly regarded energy market institution.

Catherine Cooper - Ms Cooper is a board member of the Consumer Advocacy Panel. Ms Cooper has senior management experience with large companies including Elders Ltd, Futuris Corporation and Foster’s Brewing Group. She has been involved in a number of industries including finance/banking/insurance, agribusiness, legal and commercial, and health and education. Ms Cooper is the chairperson of a number of organisations including the Dairy Authority of South Australia and the Fleurieu Regional Waste Management Authority.

Clare Petre - Clare Petre was the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW from 1998 to 2014. She was previously the Senior Assistant Commonwealth Ombudsman.  Ms Petre has experience in the community sector, with government, and the media. She has worked with community legal centres, as a reporter with ABC TV’s Four Corners and The Investigators, and in the health system. Ms Petre has served on a range of NSW and Commonwealth government advisory bodies, and on the boards of community groups, including ACOSS.

Gillian Owen - Dr Gillian Owen moved to Australia in August 2012, following a career in the UK in energy policy, regulation and consumer affairs. She is a part-time Research Program Leader at Monash University undertaking work on energy efficiency, electricity demand response and economic regulation. Gill also continues as a part time Senior Research Fellow with the Energy Institute, University College London.