NSW to back voluntary smart meter rollout

NSW to back voluntary smart meter rollout

Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts recently announced that electricity smart meters in NSW will be installed through a market-led rollout.

The NSW Government will reduce barriers to smart meters, ahead of the introduction of a national regulatory framework for competitive metering expected next year.

This is a case of allowing business to do what it does best, innovate and provide a product at competitive prices. It will be up to retailers to convince a customer of the benefits of having a smart meter and what it could offer them, Mr Roberts said.

The key measures are:

  • Support for a market-led rollout of smart meters to ensure competition in metering services;

  • Adoption of a voluntary model to guarantee customer choice;
  • Support of a uniform, flexible and cost-reflective new and replacement meter policy by the network distribution businesses;

  • Support of an efficient and equitable approach to setting metering charges that aligns with national rules and regulatory settings; and

Implementation of adequate consumer protections and privacy arrangements, in line with national best-practice standards.

Mr Roberts said that the policy will encourage competition by allowing metering providers, such as electricity retailers or other new entrants, to offer smart meters to customers as part of energy deals.

The market-led rollout of smart meters is the NSW Governments next step in putting the power firmly into the hands of electricity customers, Mr Roberts said.

Benefits of smart meters:

  • Customers can access new and innovative electricity pricing to save on their bills.
  • Customers can get up-to-date information on their energy consumption and costs.

  • Customers can remotely access meters to control household appliances, such as air conditioning.

  • Retailers can read the meter remotely, saving the cost of manual meter reading and eliminating estimated readings.

  • Electricity networks can more easily monitor electricity supply conditions.

  • Blackouts and other supply problems can be detected and fixed more quickly.

Currently, all residential meters in NSW are owned and operated by the state-owned electricity distribution networks, and are mostly basic mechanical meters that have to be manually read every 90 days.

These meters calculate a single figure for electricity usage over that period, meaning it is hard for customers to understand and manage their usage, and difficult for retailers to offer tailor-made services.

In contrast, a smart meter is digital and measures the amount of electricity used at any given time, providing customers accurate and up-to-date information that allows them to manage their electricity use accordingly, such as outside peak periods.

That information also assists retailers and distributors to accurately monitor and manage electricity usage across the networks, enabling improved demand-side management and reducing the need for further investment in new and expensive infrastructure.

Metering service providers will be free to offer a range of meters that cater to every customer, from basic meters that simply provide real-time information and better billing options, to more advanced meters that enable customers to remotely control household appliances from mobile devices.

Metering service providers will also need to offer sufficient information to ensure customers are able to make the best decision for their circumstances.

Many NSW businesses have been using this type of technology since the 1990s.

Mr Roberts said that the Government recognised that each customer would benefit differently from a smart meter and the policy guaranteed the right of customers to retain their existing meter if they didnt feel the need for a new one.

A voluntary roll-out is critical to ensure that customer choice remains the determining factor in the development of a competitive market for metering services.

Importantly, customers will still have access to the same level of consumer protection regardless of whether they have a smart meter or not.

This includes the ability to refer matters to the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON), cooling-off periods when entering a new contract, guarantees on health and electrical safety, and protections around the use of customer data.

The NSW Government has consulted widely for more than two years on smart meters, Mr Roberts said.

The policy follows the lessons learned from the troubled rollout of smart meters in Victoria.

In 2009, the then Victorian Labor Government commenced a mandated network-led rollout of smart meters, regardless of if a customer wanted one or not.

Not only were Victorian customers not given a choice of meters, they were also charged the upfront cost of the meter and its installation, a decision which is still costing them.

The Government has listened to customers and that is why ultimately customers will decide what they want and when they want it, Mr Roberts said.

Source: Business Spectator

Smart Grid Bulletin April 2018

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