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Smart Meters eUpdate - Issue 2

Smart Meter web portals

Electricity companies Origin Energy and Jemena have launched Smart Meter compatible web portals, and United Energy are currently trialing a portal.

Web portals help households and businesses better understand their electricity usage by providing energy consumption data. This means that households, through a Smart Meter, can access their energy use information online and track energy consumption.

Read more about Smart Meter web portals.

Energy Safe Victoria safety report

Victoria's independent energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), commenced a review of the safety of Smart Meters following reports in the media of meter failures in Melbourne's northern suburbs in December 2011 and January 2012. While the failures were initially thought to have been caused by a high-voltage injection (e.g. lightning strikes), further investigation determined criminal damage was actually the cause. Police are now investigating these incidents.

ESV released its draft report on this issue on May 18. The report concluded that Smart Meters are safe, do not pose any greater safety risk than the meters they are replacing, and that there is no evidence to suggest that Smart Meters are exploding or causing fires.

The ESV report also found:

  • Recent confirmed examples of latent meter failure are attributable to criminal damage rather than high-voltage injection.
  • When Smart Meters fail, they fail safely and potentially reduce the risk of personal damage and injury.
  • There is no evidence to suggest the safety risks associated with Smart Meters are any greater than older style electronic or electromechanical meters.
  • Smart Meters being installed in Victoria meet current Australian Standards including those related to safety, and those standards are robust and appropriate.
  • Electricity companies are following the Victorian Electricity Supply Industry's minimum procedures for responding to a high-voltage injection when it occurs - this includes requirements to inspect metering equipment and to conduct testing as required.
  • The procedures that detail what is acceptable in relation to the condition of meter boards and panels prior to a meter installation, were found to be appropriate and suitable.

The draft report is now available on the ESV website. ESV will release a final report by the end of July 2012.

Red Energy and Origin Energy first to offer remote services

In April 2012, electricity retailers Red Energy and Origin Energy successfully completed remote re-energisation and de-energisation services using Smart Meters.

This means Red Energy and Origin Energy customers who choose to take up the 'remote energisation' option where available can have their electricity connected and disconnected faster, without a distributor field officer having to attend the property. This allows for faster and cheaper connection and disconnection when moving home.

This new technology will result in reductions in connection and disconnection charges of between $7.98 and $105.09 - depending on the service delivered and the time it is requested by the customer.

So far customers within four distribution areas - Jemena, United Energy, CitiPower and Powercor - have been able to access these new remote services.

All remote re-energisation and de-energisation services are being undertaken in accordance with processes approved by Energy Safe Victoria.

Perth Solar City trial

Preliminary results from a Western Australian energy efficiency trial have shown that households can significantly reduce their power bills by employing energy saving techniques within the home. The trial also found electricity bills can be reduced by nearly 10% by simply turning off lights and appliances when they are not in use.

'Perth Solar City' is a residential energy efficiency program that allows households to better manage their energy use through employing techniques such as using in-home displays and 'time of use' tariffs (also known as flexible pricing).

Western Power's acting chief executive officer, Paul Italiano commented, that "it has become clear that access to real time energy use information, rather than a bill every 60 days, is key to real savings for households or bigger energy users."

Preliminary results from the trial show a range of positive results, including:

  • In-home displays: there is evidence to suggest that access to real time energy use data can assist in reducing electricity use by schools (54%) and residential in-home display users (6.82%);
  • Time-of-use tariff (power shift): 10.9% reduction in electricity use during the "super peak" period;
  • Demand management (air conditioner trial): 20% reduction in electricity use at peak time during year one;
  • Residential solar PV systems: 57.9% reduction in average daily electricity use (from the grid), or 11.36 kWh per day;
  • Residential solar hot water systems:15% reduction in average daily electricity use; and
  • Behaviour change: 8.5% reduction in average daily electricity use.

Since its launch in November 2009, the Perth Solar City program, which is managed by Western Power on behalf of the Australian Government, has become the most comprehensive energy efficiency initiative in Western Australia.

Perth Solar City will continue to analyse report results throughout 2012, with final results expected to be released in 2013. A copy of the report can be found on the Perth Solar City website.

Customer Impact Study into new pricing arrangements

A preliminary Deloitte study into the potential impacts of new state pricing arrangements has revealed that many Victorians stand to benefit from what is known as 'flexible' pricing (or 'time-of-use' pricing).

The study shows that with the introduction of flexible rates (expected during 2013), electricity costs across a number of customer groups, including vulnerable groups and small businesses, will change.

When flexible pricing is introduced, customers can choose to remain on a flat tariff.

Through Deloitte's modelling it is estimated that the average change to customer bills will range from a reduction of 4% to an increase of 2% - assuming customers do not change their pattern of energy consumption. It also found that if customers changed their energy consumption in response to flexible pricing, all customer groups could benefit.

The Deloitte Customer Impact Study also found:

  • The new pricing structures will allow vulnerable groups (single parent families and the elderly) to have almost the same potential to benefit as the average electricity customer;
  • Flexible Pricing is expected to benefit regional households as they tend to have relatively heavy overnight consumption;
  • People requiring disability assistance will generally benefit through the new pricing arrangements;
  • Regional household and health care card holders are better off under most pricing scenarios;

However the study also notes that specific customer impacts will depend on a number of variables, including:

  • The structure and level of tariffs that are applied;
  • Existing tariff levels;
  • Whether customers currently have a single or dual element meter;
  • The customer's own usage profile; and,
  • Whether and how customers alter their energy consumption in response to price change.

The Government is working with industry, welfare and consumer organisations through the recently formed Ministerial Advisory Council, to ensure that flexible pricing is introduced smoothly to enable customers to make informed choices.

Read the full Deloitte Customer Impact Study.

In-home display subsidies update

As detailed on the Smart Meter website, in-home displays will be subsidised through the Victorian Government's Energy Saver Incentive scheme, giving customers' access to real-time information about their energy consumption.

The Government introduced regulations in March 2012 to include in-home displays in the scheme. A number of in-home display manufacturers are further developing their products to meet the technical requirements of the scheme. The Essential Services Commission (ESC), as the administrator of the scheme, is working with manufacturers and providers of in-home displays to ensure the technical requirements can be met and tested as quickly as possible.

The Government is also working with distribution businesses to ensure that there are effective processes in place to "bind and un-bind" in-home displays to Smart Meters.