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The Federal Government has announced the appointment of three new members to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

Eric Groom PSM and Justin Oliver have been appointed as full-time Commonwealth members, along with Catriona Lowe as a full-time State/Territory member.

The appointments are each for a five-year period commencing from 3 February 2020.

The AER is responsible for regulating energy networks, retailers and wholesale markets. It also protects the interests of household and small business consumers by enforcing the National Energy Retail Law.

Mr Groom has over 35 years of experience as an economist with a focus on regulation and energy efficiency. From 2016 to 2019, he was appointed as a member of the AER’s Consumer Challenge Panel. He has also held senior roles at the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of New South Wales.

Mr Oliver has close to 20 years of experience in network regulation. He was previously the head of the ACCC’s regulatory law practice, where he was responsible for advising the ACCC on all aspects of electricity network and gas pipeline regulation and contributed to the establishment of the AER.

Ms Lowe has over 20 years of experience in litigation and consumer advocacy, and has held roles with the Consumer Action Law Centre, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the ACCC. She is currently Chair of the ACCC’s Consumer Consultative Committee.

Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said, “The expansion of the board from three to five members provided the opportunity for greater breadth of experience among members.

“The addition of Ms Lowe reflects energy networks’ increasing focus on real customer outcomes. Mr Groom and Mr Oliver are also highly respected in their fields.”

Mr Dillon said the network sector was embracing the significant challenges and opportunities from changing customer needs with the rapid growth in renewable generation as part of the decarbonisation of our electricity and gas sectors.

“Given the transformation underway and the AER’s role in network regulation, it is in the best interests of customers that the board has a diverse set of skills and experiences, including a solid understanding of the issues the sector is facing,” he said.

The legislative changes that increase the AER Board to five full-time members will come into effect on 3 February 2020 and no longer have a requirement for an ACCC Commissioner to be a member of the AER Board.

Cristina Cifuentes will step down from her role as a part-time Board member of the AER but will continue in her role as a full-time Commissioner at the ACCC.

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