Australia deploys advanced metering to access customer demand management


[Published by Bayard Group][October 2004]

In December 2004, Ampy Email partnered with electricity utility Country Energy to launch Australia’s first advanced metering project.  The project, called the ‘Home Energy Efficiency Trial’ (HEET), is aimed at harnessing the potential for customer demand management in the residential sector. 

The purpose of the 18-month project is to better understand customers’ propensity to change their electricity consumption patterns if provided with more information about their consumption and its relative cost at different times of the day and year. 

Results from the first 12 months are promising, with significant power demand reductions occurring during peak periods and the majority of customers experiencing overall savings on their energy bills on the new time-of-use rates. 

Country Energy has purchased an end-to-end advanced metering system from Ampy Email that features state-of-the-art interval meters, in-home displays that can be plugged into power outlets anywhere in the home, two-way communications modules that use GSM/GPRS to both collect and send data between customers and the utility, and a sophisticated back-office software system.

Smart Metering Pic 1

Ampy Email’s EM1212 interval meter, Home Energy Monitor, and back-office load profile.  

Until the project’s commencement, the 150 participating households were on a mix of tariffs, including  flat, year-round pricing. The new advanced metering equipment has allowed customers to now be on a rate schedule that more closely reflects the cost to the utility of purchasing electricity and running the network at different times of the day and year (see table below).  In addition, the system provides for ‘critical peak pricing’ (CPP) – that is, the ability for the utility to dynamically and remotely put in place a special peak price to reflect periods of particularly high electricity demand on the system.

Country Energy has an agreement with its customers that it can use such critical peak pricing up to a dozen times per year and for periods not greater than six hours at a time.  The critical peak price is twice the value of the regular peak price.

HEET Tariff Schedule

Period Rates 
Off-Peak 7¢/kWh
Shoulder 13 ¢/kWh
Peak  19 ¢/kWh 
Critical Peak (occasional) 38 ¢/kWh

Customers are notified of critical price events via the in-home display, as well as emails and/or SMS text messages, depending on their personal preferences.

During the past 12 months, Country Energy sent customers two CPPs:  one in summer and one in winter.  On both occasions customers reduced their peak consumption by around 30 per cent.  


Figure 1: Impact of Critical Peak Price Signal

Smart metering pic 2

Customer satisfaction with the project is high.  The in-house display has become an important resource for them, with many customers citing that they refer to it at least once each day. Country Energy has routinely surveyed customers and typical responses include:

“I am sold on the product and it should be kept. I think it is something everyone would benefit from.”

 “I note from the March account last year (2004) our average daily usage was 14.88 units. This March (2005) it is 10.92 units. This has been achieved through our ability to plan usage as a result of having the info available on the monitor.”

“We’d all be better off if a similar market based system was used for water as well.”

Further, while shifting from a flat tariff to time-of-use rates with a variable ‘CPP’ component may have appeared daunting to some customers at the outset, most participants’ bills have declined. Detailed analysis of trial participants’ energy accounts shows that customer are using the in-home displays to make informed judgments about their energy consumption, and are shifting consumption away from peak periods to take advantage of cheaper prices.

The 18-month project will be complete in June 2006, at which time Country Energy will analyse the outcomes with a view to making the technology more widely available. 

In the meantime, Ampy Email has already developed its next-generation in-house display – the EcoMeter (see photo below) – with increased customer functionality including the ability to get information on both water and gas consumption and their related costs.   The development of the EcoMeter has been based in part on feedback gained from Country Energy’s customers.

Smart Metering 3

Courtesy of Bayard Group