Smart meter consumer protections and pricing under review in Australia


Canberra, Australia — (METERING.COM) — December 19, 2011 – Australia’s Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER) has launched a consultation on national consumer protection arrangements to facilitate consistency across the jurisdictions where smart meters are rolled out.
The consultation, National Smart Meter Consumer Protections and Pricing, which is part of an ongoing series, considers three key issues:

  • Pricing, demand management and customer billing, focusing on the consumer implications of the potential new pricing arrangements and the impacts on different groups. In particular it is considered how consumer choice of tariffs can be facilitated and how consumers can navigate their way through the potential new arrangements, and two demand management services – supply capacity control and direct load control – are also considered.
  • Consumer access and engagement, recognizing there are benefits available to consumers from smart meters that will only be realized if consumers and the community are sufficiently informed and engaged.
  • Technical and safety issues, acknowledging that because of the large number of consumers who would be impacted within a concentrated period of time, the widespread installation of smart meters will bring greater focus onto technical, public health and safety issues associated with electricity meters. A key means of mitigating these concerns is to ensure that adequate information is provided to consumers.

Among the proposals are that critical peak pricing tariffs and critical peak rebates must be offered as a voluntary product and only established with a consumer’s explicit informed consent, and that the consumer’s bill should contain an accumulated total for the start and end reads derived form the smart meter.

There also are important issues to be resolved in providing for third party service providers in the market framework and systematic consideration should be given to these issues in the overall development of market arrangements for the delivery of smart meters.

The consultation will run until March 2, 2012, after which the new Energy Market Reform Working Group (EMRWG) will develop final policy positions.

In an April 2007 agreement, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) mandated a national rollout of electricity smart meters in locations where the benefits outweigh costs.

The SCER has taken over the responsibilities of the former Ministerial Council on Energy (MCE). The EMRWG has taken on responsibility for the smart meter consumer protection review from the former MCE Standing Committee of Officials.