Every home and business connected to the grid has an electricity meter to record their power use. It is generally the responsibility of retailers to install, read and maintain these energy meters, however this sometimes comes at a cost to consumers. In this article, Canstar Blue takes you through the various kinds of metering charges and fees that you might come across.
Keep in mind that regulation regarding metering fees varies considerably across different parts of Australia. While this information is correct at the time of writing, regulation and fee schedules are subject to change.
Meter Installation Fee
Installing a standard electricity meter is usually free for residential properties in SA, Tas and ACT. The costs of installing a new meter are generally covered by the supply charge component of your power bills, however extra fees may apply if you need a non-standard meter (e.g. a three-phase connection).
Victorian customers are charged between $400 and $700 upfront for a single-phase smart meter and installation, depending on the distributor. On the other side of the country, a new meter installed in Western Australia will set households back around $74 to $250, depending on the type of meter and whether it is being connected to a new or existing home.
In New South Wales, customers are also required to fund the cost of the meter, plus pay the upfront installation costs. Since meters in New South Wales are supplied by alternative service providers (not distributors), the price of a new meter can vary considerably, so shop around.
Metering Service Charge
Queenslanders used to have their metering costs covered as part of their supply charge. However, from July 2018, metering costs in the state are now covered by what’s called a ‘metering service charge’. This is a separate charge of about 12c/day that appears on customers’ bills under the ‘other charges’ section.
Customers may be required to pay a higher metering service charge for secondary meters, three-phase meters and solar meters. An additional charge is also included where customers specifically request to disable the modem of their digital meter to prevent it being read remotely.
Special Meter Reading Fee
A special meter reading fee is a charge for having your meter read at your own request. Usually, meters are read every three months (once per quarter) for the purposes of your retailer billing you.
If you do not have a smart meter, someone is required to attend your property to record the electricity usage measured by your meter. These standard meter reads do not incur additional fees. If, however, you require a meter read that is off-cycle, then you may be charged a special meter reading fee. This may happen if you’re changing retailers half way through a billing cycle, however these days it’s more common for the retailer to wait until to the end of a billing cycle before switching you, otherwise they sometimes pay the fee themselves.
Solar Meter Installation Fee
If you have solar panels, then you require what’s called a ‘bi-directional meter’. While customers in some states can have their meter upgraded for free, in other parts you will have to pay a solar meter installation fee.
Solar meter fees in Victoria are often charged upfront in a lump-sum, generally costing around $60. Queenslanders, on the other hand, pay for their solar upgrade through a ‘solar meter charge’. This is similar to the metering service charge whereby customers pay a few cents each day, with these costs added to your bills under other charges.
Other metering fees
Metering fees vary considerably across different networks, so it’s difficult to exhaustively list them here. With that said, here are a few other fees to be aware of that could apply.
- Meter Inspection Fee: If you’re concerned that your meter is not operating correctly, you can have someone come out to check on it for an additional fee. Any repairs required may also be charged, usually, on a quoted basis.
- Controlled Load Metering Fee: Some meters will require a small upgrade in order to access controlled load tariffs. If that’s the case, additional fees may apply.
- Connection and Disconnection fee: There are additional connection and disconnection fees that should be factored in. You can read all about these here.
What do I do if I disagree with a metering charge?
If you disagree with a charge on your power bill, then contact your electricity retailer to find out more. In some cases, they may be able to waive the fee, reduce what you owe, or organise an alternative payment arrangement. It is for this reason that it’s important to find an energy company with great customer service. To see who fits that definition, be sure to check out Canstar Blue’s customer ratings.