Suppliers and retailer eye growth in smart meter roll out

The Australian smart meter market has transitioned through a ruling from the energy market regulator aimed to create more competition among suppliers and increasing consumer engagement, which came into effect July 1.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) outlined a draft rule determination, which will now see consumers able to select if they want a meter at all, the types and cost of the meter, and a price plan – just as they might when buying a mobile phone.

Prepared by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council, the ruling prepared in March aims to address “the exclusivity arrangements that limit who can take responsibility for the provision of metering services, impede competition and potentially encourage the continued use of accumulation meters”, as reported by Metering and Smart Energy International.

In a summary of the draft determination, the COAG Energy Council said it has identified a number of issues with the National Electricity Rules (NER) and National Energy Retail Rules (NERR) in its rule change request that limit competition and may inhibit investment in the provision of advanced metering services. The council also identified certain exit fees and the structure of metering charges create a disincentive for retailers to invest in advanced meters.

Other issues identified by the COAG Energy Council related to minimum requirements for advanced meters and uncertainty over access to advanced metering services and metering data and consumer protections.

Energy management company Landis+Gyr, said the AEMC ruling would be crucial to determine how the market would operate in the future.

Commenting on energy retailers offering consumers products that would involve the installation of smart meters, providing the foundations for a smart grid, Landis+Gyr in Australia and New Zealand head of smart metering business Adrian Clark told The Sydney Morning Herald, “in our mind provides the opportunity to really build smart infrastructure on the back of that”.

“We’ve been waiting for some of the policy decisions to get resolved and this now provides clarity for the market to move on and start building that smart infrastructure.”

Acknowledging Victoria’s rocky start to the mandatory roll out last year – which sparked a consumer backlash because of installation costs charged to houses that produced little benefit, and worries about safety concerns and privacy – Mr Clark said technology has since, “leapfrogged”.

Under the AEMC’s draft ruling on the new metering regulations retailers have needed to appoint a ‘metering co-ordinator’ to provide meters to, and liaise with, their customers.

AGL Energy has proposed the new system also offers opportunities for metering suppliers to join with retailers as technology partners, should a retailer decide to go into metering itself.

By 2017 all new or replacement meters would be “smart”, while retailers would be able to offer incentives to customers to have the new meters installed, according to Metering and Smart Energy International.

“For a retailer it’s now about creating that value proposition for the customer,” Mr Clark said.