Why speeding up Australia’s smart meter rollout is key to a better energy grid

Reducing meter replacement times and making information more readily available for consumers could be the key to fast-tracking smart meters being rolled out in Australia, an industry body shared.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) outlined a series of options to help improve smart meter installation efficiency and accelerate the move to a smarter energy grid.

Smart meters accurately record electricity usage and the quality of power in 30-minute intervals. This information can then be shared wirelessly to energy consumers and retailers for quick and efficient power usage monitoring.

The AEMC states that only 25 per cent of premises in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT have a smart meter installed. Tasmania has a slightly higher rate, sitting at 35 per cent. In Victoria however, smart meters have been mandatory since 2011.

Despite the push for  digital meters in homes and businesses, many Aussies simply aren’t aware of the potential benefits of these devices, AEMC Chair Anna Collyer said.

“Consumer awareness of smart meters remains low and research we commissioned has found it likely that one-third of people who have a smart meter are unaware it exists, let alone getting any benefits from the data,” she said. “At a community level, smart meters are a crucial enabling tool for the reforms we all need to decarbonise the grid.

“They are a gateway to enabling a more dynamic and flexible market – where energy is traded both ways and consumers – and the grid – can harness the power of distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles.”

In addition to helping customers save money on their energy bills, smart meters also lend a hand in future-proofing the grid, added Ms Collyer.

“We need the aggregated data that sufficient numbers of smart meters could provide on usage and power quality before we can really rely fully on these resources to power the grid.

“This paper we’re releasing today is designed to kickstart discussion on what could be achieved for consumers and the community if smart meter installation reached, for instance, 50 per cent of all premises, and how the regulatory framework can enable that growth.”

Aside from Victoria, smart meters are only required to be installed in Australia if the existing traditional meter on a property is damaged or faulty, a customer requests one, or a retailer leads its own rollout in a specific area.

Benefits of having a smart meter

Smart meters allow access to flexible pricing tariffs – otherwise known as a time of use tariff. This type of tariff allows customers to leverage peak and off-peak electricity times to potentially save themselves some money. This is because off-peak periods typically offer a lower electricity usage rate than those seen on a single rate energy plan. That being said, peak periods on flexible pricing tariffs often come with a higher usage rate, meaning customers will need to be extra conscious of their power use throughout different times of the day.

Single Rate Energy Prices

Below we’ve listed the prices on single rate plans that are better suited to customers who just want to pay one rate for their electricity usage, regardless of the time of day.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are some of the cheapest published deals from the retailers on our database that include a link to the retailer’s website for further details. These are products from referral partners†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

How does the rollout benefit customers and the grid?

There are many potential benefits for both energy consumers and the future of Australia’s energy grid that can come from accelerating the smart meter rollout.

For customers, these include:

  • More accurate billing information thanks to real-time usage data.
  • Greater control and understanding of your home or business’ energy usage.
  • Greater access to user-friendly and innovative apps and portals for remote control of appliances and instant access to more flexible time of use electricity tariffs.
  • Opportunities to create a virtual power plant where neighbourhoods could trade rooftop solar power and other stored energy.
  • The ability to remotely identify power outages or power supply problems which can reduce the time it takes to repair these issues.

For the energy grid, these include:

  • The ability to share power quality data with distributors to help manage power supply.
  • Reduce spending needed for expensive poles and wires.
  • Faster notification of outages and supply issues, which allow for faster responses to these issues.
  • Further capacity to interpret the electricity demand in real time and match it with the supply across the different energy generation types, e.g., solar, wind, hydro, etc.

So, what are some of the key recommendations?

Here are some of the key recommendations from the Australian Energy Market Commission:

  • Improve customer experience by requiring retailers to provide information to customers prior to the smart meter installation.
  • Allow customers to request a smart meter from their retailer at any point in time and requiring the retailer to install a smart meter upon this request.
  • Reduce the delay in meter replacement time by implementing a practicable replacement timeframe for malfunctioning meters.
  • Ask retailers to consider if there are any remediation issues preventing the installation of smart meters for customers.
  • Support a more efficient deployment of smart meters by reducing the number of notices for retailer-led roll outs to one notice.
  • Consider removing a customer’s ability to opt out of a retailer-led smart meter rollout.
  • Consider improving the efficiency of meter installations in multioccupancy situations.
  • Require meters to be replaced once they have reached a certain age, for example 30 years, under an aged-replacement rollout.
  • Set a smart meter replacement target for the rollout which a retailer (or the responsible party) will be required to meet each year.
  • Introduce a ‘backstop’ date or dates by which time all meters must be replaced with smart meters, for example 90 per cent of meters required to be smart meters by 2030.

A draft report based on these recommendations is expected later this year, with a final report to be completed by early 2022.


Image credit: JWPhotoworks/Shutterstock.com

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