Distributed Energy Code to improve industry outcomes
The BTM Code seeks to enhance customer protections in relation to the provision of behind the meter distributed energy resources. This covers solar systems, battery energy storage systems, and energy management systems, as well as other emerging products and services that reduce or obviate the need for traditional grid based consumption ‘in front of the meter’.
As a consequence of the increasing uptake of behind the meter distributed energy resources, a number of industry participants have identified the need for a code of conduct to improve consumer outcomes.
The BTM Code is designed to be a self-regulatory tool for the industry and will only apply to providers that choose to sign-up. Whilst the BTM Code will apply to all customers, it is chiefly directed at residential and small business customers.
The final version of the BTM Code will be submitted to the COAG Energy Council and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in April 2019, with a view to issuing the final version in mid-2019.
Standards required under the BTM Code
The BTM Code sets out comprehensive practice standards to ensure that customers are aware of their rights and that providers of behind the meter products and services are acting responsibly and in accordance with their obligations.
The Code will also include technical schedules addressing the requirements for specific behind the meter technologies which will be amended over time, to cater for new innovative products and services which come onto the market in the future.
The practice standards cover each stage of the customer journey, from the provider’s pre-sale conduct through to their complaint-handling procedures. The key requirements are outlined below.
All promotional material must be clear, truthful and accurate
All sales and quotation practices must be responsible and must not include pressure selling
Providers must undertake site-specific full system design and ensure all products and services are fit for purpose.
Customers must be provided with a written quote and contract which clearly outlines the product or service to be supplied, any relevant cooling-off period, and all other key terms and conditions.
If a provider assists a consumer to arrange financing for their purchase, consumers must be provided with all relevant information about the financier, the relevant terms and conditions and any entitlement the customer may have to financial hardship assistance.
Customers must be provided with all necessary documentation and all steps must be taken to enable customers to get the benefit of their purchase.
The customer must be notified in writing of any changes to their contract
Compliant handling standards
Providers must be responsive to consumers and deal with their complaints appropriately
Customers must be provided with a warranty for all products and workmanship that guarantees a reasonable period of working life, and providers must promptly honour their obligations under warranties.
The practice standards may appear familiar as they enshrine a number of consumer protections that already exist under Australian Consumer Law. Articulation of these principles in the BTM Code may be beneficial to improve consistency and promote an even playing field between a large range of industry participants with a large variance in legal sophistication.
The BTM Code also seeks to include a number of additional features such as an independent compliance monitoring and enforcement framework. It will be administered by a ‘Code Administrator’, and a ‘Code Review Panel’ will be created to oversee the administration and hear appeals from signatories. There is no clarity on who will take on these roles. However, discussions regarding governance and administration are currently being undertaken in parallel to the consultation on the substantive provisions of the BTM Code.
Norton Rose Fulbright attended the recent industry consultation sessions regarding the BTM Code in both Sydney and Brisbane. Whilst a number of industry participants signalled the need for a code of conduct there were concerns raised, including how to manage the technological neutrality of the BTM Code.
We are keenly involved in the conversation around the BTM Code and closely monitoring its development.
If you would like further information about the Code, to make a submission or understand the impact it may have on your business, please do not hesitate to contact us.1
Many thanks to Rachel Murphy for her assistance in preparing this update.
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