Smart meters new default, unregulated installation costs 'encourage competition'

Smart meters new default, unregulated installation costs 'encourage competition'

Australians could be slugged with unregulated extra installation and maintenance costs for smart meters as they become the default for any new installations.

From Friday, December 1 contractors or "metering co-ordinators" will charge energy retailers for the installation and maintenance of smart meters who will then pass the costs to consumers.

But there are no regulations for what prices contractors or retailers can pass on to the consumer as industry regulators insist it will improve competition.

Smart meters tell both utilities and the home owner how much energy is being consumed without requiring anyone to physically access the meter.

Existing 'non'-smart meters require a manual read.

An ACT environment directorate spokesperson said Canberra consumers were encouraged to shop around to choose the most suitable package.


"These national reforms are expected to open up metering services to competition. We are confident these reforms will encourage competition, and therefore will keep charges down," they said.

According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, these contractors would also be responsible for reading the smart meters.

Before Friday only utility distributors, like ActewAGL's distribution arm, could provide installation services at a regulated price.

"Under this new competitive model there will be multiple providers competing to provide these services to consumers at a competitive price," the directorate spokesperson said.

Carbon Energy Markets director Bruce Mountain, an expert in electrical engineering and economics, said it was more important the costs were transparent.

"It's similar to the rest of the electricity issue and that's customers understanding what's going on and what they're being charged for and ensuring that's transparently stated on their bills," Mr Mountain said.

"I think the main thing is ... policy makers and those who oversee the industry ensure that customers know what charges are being made and what it's costing [consumers]."

ActewAGL estimates 2000 smart meters have been installed in the ACT, representing under 0.5 per cent of the capital's electricity meters.

Any new developments will require a smart meter. Any malfunctioning meters will be replaced with a smart meter.

Retailers may also install new smart meters even if the existing non-smart meter is working.

But a FAQ sheet from the Australian Energy Regulator reads consumers can opt out of having a smart meter installed if their existing one is working.

Retailers must also provide consumers at least 25 days notice if they plan to install a new smart meter.

The changes are part of the country's new National Electricity Rules.

A 2015 report by the Victorian Auditor-General said after home owners were charged for installation, smart meters had delivered no benefit to Victorians.

The AEMC said existing non-smart meters would continue to be read by distributors, whilst retailers would be responsible for smart meter readings.

In August, energy companies agreed to write to two million Australian households to offer them cheaper power plans after a summit with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Finbar O'Mallon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

Most Viewed in National


Morning & Afternoon Newsletter

Delivered Mon–Fri.

By signing up you accept our privacy policy and conditions of use