The 'Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has two roles in relation to the National Electricity Market - as rule maker and as a provider of advice to Ministers on how best to develop energy markets over time. The AEMC actively considers market development when it considers rule change proposals, policy advice and energy market reviews. These rules are binding on the Australian energy market and enforced by the Australian Energy Regulator. The National Electricity Market is the interconnected power system in Australia’s eastern and south-eastern seaboard.  Consumers SA recently asked AEMC a number of questions about the impact on consumers of the rollout of smart meters in South Australia.  AEMC’s detailed answers are set out here.

Our questions (and the background to our queries) were:

  1. Is there a standard size (length, width and depth) for Smart Meters? If not, can we find out what is the largest meter size, that is legal to use in South Australia. The reason for this question is, manufacturers and other industry people, need this information to build meter boxes that the meters will fit into, and lack of these details is causing considerable difficulty. 

  2. Are AEMC planning to use 5 minute intervals for reading and billing the new Smart Meters? If so is there a conflict with standards? We understand the Smart Meters are licensed to standards that measure kWh, not 5 minute intervals, for which we understand there is no Australian Standard. 

  3. Is it true Retailer / Metering Coordinators can on sell consumers smart meter data, without the specific consent of consumers? 

  4. Is it true consumers will have to sign away their rights for any damage caused by reconnection, when new smart meters are connected in South Australia? Our old meters do this for us. I believe in Victoria Smart Meters have a supply contractor built in that automatically performs the safety check. 

  5. Can South Australia consumers request a retailer supply a Victorian type meter, as this is a national grid? 

  6. In South Australia we have a lack of meters, with consumers unable to get a new smart meter for sometimes months. As retailers are responsible for ordering Smart Meters for South Australia, to whom can consumers complain or get compensation for long delays? 

  7. Can the connection of new Smart Meters be simplified in South Australia? At the moment it is our understanding that many sections of the industry need to be present at connection of smart meters some times as many as 4 or 5 people need to be there at the same time. This in practice causes many delays particularly in the country, i.e. Kangaroo Island. This causes delays in getting power on to a site and additional costs to consumers. 

In clarifying Question 4, Consumers SA’s energy expert, Brian Attwood said:

In response to question 4, my question referred to retailers.  My understanding is that some retailers are asking consumers to sign an agreement that puts the responsibility for reconnection onto the consumer when a retailer cuts off the power and reconnects it. They are saying the consumer must be there to check that every item is switched off before reconnection can be done.

This is not the case with our older meters: when the power goes off the supply can be reconnected without consumer involvement. My understanding is that damage can be done to appliances when reconnection is done after retailers have cut off the power.

Is this different to a local blackout and reconnection where no consumer input is required?

On 15 November 2018 AEMC replied:

The disconnection/reconnection obligations for retailers and distributors under the national energy rules generally relate to situations where retailers and distributors are permitted to disconnect or reconnect customers and timeframes associated with them.  I am not aware of any specific requirement on a customer checking that all appliances are switched off before power can be reconnected.

The jurisdictional or the distributor's service installation rules may require a premises to be inspected or have some form of compliance certificate if it has been disconnected for a period of time or after extensive alteration before the site is re-energised.  This is generally for safety reasons so to ensure that the premises is safe from an electrical perspective.

If we were to put this in the context of a simple meter exchange, there probably is no reason why a customer needs to be at home to ensure all items are switched off.  I think this is a case of retailers being extremely conservative and transferring risks to the customer.

On the technical aspects of disconnecting and reconnecting customers, I would suggest you contact the South Australian Office of Technical Regulator or SA Power Networks.

AuthorRay Dennis