Making decisions about a large-scale rollout of new meters is always difficult. To achieve a national rollout of smart meters the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has extensively modified the rules governing the supply of electricity meters. From 1st December 2017 responsibility for supplying customers with electricity meters shifted from distribution network operators to retailers. Under this change retailers are required to install so-called “smart meters”. While smart meters are claimed to deliver consumer benefits, the following analysis finds that AEMC and other government bodies could, and should, do significantly more to ensure that these benefits are realised for consumers.
The main benefit most consumers want from their smart meter is to lower their electricity bill. A number of steps are involved in achieving this which are not currently addressed in the AEMC roll out.
Firstly, consumers and their authorised representatives must be able to access required smart meter data and smart meter data related services in a simple, user-friendly manner that provides actionable information for consumers. This would involve consumers giving their explicit and informed consent to the installation of smart meters and third party data access, in accordance with privacy protections. It also requires the development of smart meter data related services enabling consumers to compare tariffs and lower their electricity costs.
Secondly, it is not enough that these smart meter data related services exist; consumers must be actively encouraged to access and utilise these services for their own benefit. This involves a wide-ranging, effective and ongoing consumer campaign to actively encourage consumers to use the services to lower their bills and improve their electricity service.
Thirdly, electricity is an essential service. The AEMC should ensure that smart meter benefits are available to all consumers. The rollout should include adequate consumer protections to address underlying barriers to accessing smart meters and smart meter enabled services.
This report recommends changes to the regulatory framework and a consumer education campaign to:
- Guarantee simple access to smart meter data for all consumers
- Actively encourage and demonstrate how consumers can use smart meter enabled services to lower their electricity costs
-Address consumer protection issues created by new smart meters