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Trials

Trials provide a structured framework for innovative products and services to be tested in a real-world environment while still protecting consumers. Using trial waivers and time-limited rule changes, trial projects provide proponents with evidence on the feasibility of new business models. This evidence can be used by policy and law makers to inform regulatory change.

Currently accepting applications for Victorian trial waivers

We are currently accepting applications for trials requiring relief from Victorian energy frameworks under the Victorian Regulatory Sandboxing function. Please note that we are NOT currently accepting applications for trials requiring relief from national energy frameworks. 

  • Legislation has been enacted to allow the Essential Services Commission (ESC) to issue waivers providing relief from Victorian energy frameworks under the Victorian Regulatory Sandboxing function. 
  • The Energy Innovation Toolkit requires separate Regulatory Sandboxing legislation to be enacted to allow the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to issue trial waivers and the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) to make trial rule changes providing relief from national energy frameworks. 
  • We will NOT accept application for trials requiring relief from the National Electricity Rules (NER), the National Energy Retail Rules (NERR), the National Gas Rules (NGR), well as relevant provisions of the National Electricity Law (NEL), National Energy Retail Law (NERL), and National Gas Law (NGL) until Regulatory Sandboxing legislation comes into effect. 


What states and territories are within Energy Innovation Toolkit scope?

The Energy Innovation Toolkit doesn't have jurisdiction to issue or consider a waiver relating to Western Australia and the Northern Territory.  We only have jurisdiction to handle enquiries and consider or approve trial applications relating to matters within the National Electricity Market  (NEM) (covers New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory.)

What will you see on this page?

When the Energy Innovation Toolkit opens to applications for trials requiring relief from national energy frameworks, this page will hold: 

  •  A register of all trial waiver certificates issued by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) (Note that a register of Victorian trial waivers will be available on the Essential Services Commission (ESC) website)
  • Links to trial rule change process documents, held on the website of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC)
  • Links to information and consultation documents for proposed trials, and
  • Links to information, consultation documents and project update reports for active trial projects.

How will trials be administered? 

  • Innovators will be able to apply for trial waivers through the Energy Innovation Toolkit Portal.
  • Innovators will also use the Energy Innovation Toolkit Portal as a first-stop contact point for applications for trial rule changes.  
  • The Energy Innovation Toolkit will assess trial applications, craft trial conditions, monitor trial projects, and carry out other trial project functions in accordance with the Trial Projects Guidelines . On 19 April 2022, the AER released a draft of the Trial Projects Guidelines and explanatory statement for consultation. Submissions are due by 3 June 2022. 

The ESC has developed a Trial Project Guideline to provide Victoria-specific guidance on the proposed approach, information and process requirements that the ESC will consider for Victorian trial waiver applications, and how decisions on applications will be made. 

What other resources are available now?

The Energy Innovation Toolkit will provide regulatory relief under legislation to support Regulatory Sandboxing . Resources available before this legislation is passed and the Energy Innovation Toolkit can accept trial applications include:

How will Energy Innovation Toolkit Project Partners will work together to facilitate sandbox trials?

Although our Project Partners grant different kinds of regulatory relief and are responsible for different aspects of trial assessment, consultation and monitoring, the Energy Innovation Toolkit will function as a central point of contact for innovators to lodge trial applications and for the Project Partners to collaborate to administer trials.  

For more detailed information on the scope of the regulatory relief we offer and the different responsibilities of our Project Partners, see below: 

The AER regulates wholesale and retail energy markets, and energy networks, under the national energy rules and laws. 

The scope of the AER’s trial waiver power will be broad. Once Regulatory Sandboxing legislation passes, the Energy Innovation Toolkit trial waiver power will enable the AER to, where an application is successful, exempt an innovator from having to comply with the following in all National Electricity Market (NEM) jurisdictions and the Northern Territory in accordance with their respective application acts: 

  • Section 12 of the National Electricity Law (NEL) and/or the National Electricity Rules (NER) or a provision of the NER (Draft National Electricity Law section 18ZL(1). 
  • Section 88 of the National Energy Retail Law (NERL) and/or the National Energy Retail Rules (NERR) or a provision of the NERR (Draft National Energy Retail Law section 121C(1)).
  • Sections 91BJ, 91BRD, 91BRR and/or 91LB of the National Gas Law (NGL) and/or the National Gas Rules (NGR) or a provision of the NGR (Draft National Gas Law section 30W).

Where a trial requires both a waiver and a custom Victorian licencing arrangement, the AER will work closely with the Essential Services Commission (ESC) to craft bespoke trial waiver conditions. 

The AER will be responsible for monitoring trials projects to ensure the safety of consumers. All sandbox trial proponents will report to the AER on trial progress and outcomes. The AER will facilitate trial project knowledge sharing, and will deliver trial outcome insights to policy makers to inform regulatory change.   

Read more about the AER’s approach to delivering Regulatory Sandboxing trials here.

The AEMC is responsible for making and amending the National Electricity Rules (NER), the National Gas Rules (NGR), and the National Energy Retail Rules (NERR). 

When Regulatory Sandboxing legislation passes, the AEMC will have a new power to assess trial rule change requests and make trial rules to allow trials to proceed. This could be used to temporarily amend existing rules or to temporarily introduce a new rule of limited application.

Trial rule change requests will be received through the Energy Innovation Toolkit, and will be forwarded to the AEMC for assessment. Where a trial requires both a trial rule change and trial waiver , the AEMC will work closely with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to craft trial rule change conditions. 

Read more about the AEMC's approach to making rule changes here.

In Victoria, the ESC has responsibility for licensing and licence exemptions in the electricity and gas markets. The ESC licenses various activities including electricity and gas retail and distribution, electricity transmission, and electricity generation.

The ESC’s new Regulatory Sandboxing function will enable eligible innovators to trial new products and services in Victoria’s energy market with a trial waiver

From 1 June 2022, trial waivers will operate alongside licences and licence exemptions as a distinct authorisation category in Victoria’s energy market. The ESC will be able to consider applications for a trial waiver. These Victorian-specific waivers will provide exemptions from section 16 of the Electricity Industry Act 2000 and section 22 of the Gas Industry Act 2001.

Trial waivers granted by the ESC may contain bespoke conditions that respond to the unique characteristics of the innovative activity of the project that an innovator is proposing to trial in Victoria. Trial rule changes are not a feature of the Victorian regulatory sandboxing framework. 

Read more about the ESC’s role in delivering Regulatory Sandboxing here.

AEMO manages electricity and gas systems and markets across Australia, helping to ensure Australians have access to affordable, secure and reliable energy.

The Energy Innovation Toolkit must consult with AEMO in relation to any potential impact of a sandbox trial on the operation and administration of energy markets. We must also consult with AEMO relation to any potential impact of a sandbox trial on AEMO’s operation of the power system (as defined in the National Electricity Rules (NER)), the market (as defined in the NER), the declared distribution systems and declared transmission system for gas (as defined in the National Gas Law (NGL)), or markets for natural gas.

There may be circumstances where AEMO could participate commercially in a sandboxing trial. In this instance, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), Essential Services Commission (ESC) and AEMO will work together to ensure any potential conflicts, as well as confidential information, are appropriately managed. 

This could include a separate team of AEMO staff assisting the Energy Innovation Toolkit with the trial assessment with appropriate information safeguards in place, or AEMO sitting out of the assessment altogether. 

Read more about AEMO’s role in supporting the delivery of the Energy Innovation Toolkit here.
 

ARENA’s purpose is to support the global transition to net zero emissions by accelerating the pace of pre-commercial innovation, to the benefit of Australian consumers, businesses and workers. 

ARENA will not have a role in the assessment or monitoring of trial projects, and will not have access to the Energy Innovation Toolkit Portal. Instead, ARENA will direct innovators to the Energy Innovation Toolkit to ensure that their projects are supported with informal regulatory guidance and, where appropriate, trials. 

Read more about what ARENA does here.