The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) made a new rule last year which is intended to “open up competition in metering and facilitate a market-led deployment of advanced meters”. The new arrangements commence on 1 December 2017 in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
Under the new rule, consumers have the right to opt out of having their existing working meter replaced with an advanced (a.k.a. smart) meter where a retailer is undertaking a new meter deployment; however, this option is not available for new connections or where a faulty meter is being replaced. Opt-outs are also not permitted where there is a prepayment meter and a customer subsequently requires life support equipment; in these circumstances the prepayment meter will be immediately removed and replaced with an advanced meter. In addition, opt-outs are not permitted for maintenance replacements, where sample testing has indicated existing meters may become faulty.
Is this new rule the slippery slope towards pushing all customers subject to the National Energy Customer Framework on to wireless smart meters? Although the new rule pointedly specifies the services which the meter must be capable of providing, rather than the technical functionality, the reality is that a device which is capable of wirelessly emitting pulsed microwaves 24 hours a day, every day, will be installed.
Even in cases where there is no existing smart meter network in place and a new or replacement meter is required, a communications-ready meter is to be provided. The AEMC has acknowledged that where there is no right of opt-out, such as for new connections, faulty meters or maintenance replacement meters, some customers will seek to prevent the installation of a smart meter; in such instances, where the customer has communicated a refusal, provision has also been made to install a communications-ready smart meter. However, in these circumstances the remote access capabilities will not be activated until the customer consents to this. There is no requirement to notify customers, other than informing the customer of an interruption to their supply of electricity, if a meter is being replaced due to it being faulty or if a maintenance replacement is being undertaken. It is therefore imperative that customers put in place measures to signify their refusal of a smart meter in advance.
The new rule does not apply in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, as separate energy frameworks apply in these jurisdictions. Victoria has only partially adopted the National Energy Customer Framework, and is yet to implement this new rule as law.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council requested the new rule. COAG Energy Council members are comprised of energy and resources ministers from the Commonwealth, each State and Territory, and New Zealand.
For further information, see: