First female Chair for the Essential Services Commission

Image: Paul Jeffers

Lawyer Kate Symons has been appointed as the Chair of the Essential Services Commission (ESC), the first female to be appointed to the position.

Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott today announced Ms Symons’ appointment from Acting Chair to full-time Commissioner and Chair, joining commissioners Simon Corden and recently appointed Sitesh Bhojani.

Ms Symons will continue to lead ESC in the areas of energy, transport, local government, water, and energy efficiency.

Ms Symons appointment commences immediately, having acted in the role since May 2019.

Ms Symons is an established lawyer with a broad range of experience with the Commonwealth Royal Commission into HIH Insurance, the Federal Court of Australia and law firms in Australia and internationally over almost two decades.

Related article: United Energy trial to help keep the power grid stable

The Victorian Budget 2019/20 provides $27.3 million over four years to the ESC to bolster its regulation of the energy market and promote the interests of consumers.

The Andrews Labor Government is running its landmark Solar Homes program and the Victorian Default Offer, which its says will cut the cost of power to households, while doubling fines to retailers who make wrongful disconnections.

The Energy Fairness Plan also gives the Commission clearer investigatory powers, as well as new powers to monitor and report on the Victorian retail energy market and crack down on retailers doing the wrong thing.

Related article: Wave energy technology trialled off Tasmanian coast

The Commission will take action if retailers ignore our ban on ‘win-backs’ – so-called short-term discounts that end up costing customers more in the long run.

ESC is Victoria’s independent economic regulator of essential utility services, including electricity, gas, water and sewerage, ports, rail freight and taxi industries.

Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said the appointment of Ms Symons means the ESC is well placed to be the strong and fair regulator Victoria needs.

Quote attributable to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said, “This appointment will ensure the ESC continues to be a strong cop on the beat when it comes to cracking down on retailers who do the wrong thing.”