About Smart Meters
Smart Meter Review and Decision
Following an extensive review of the Smart Meter program, major changes will be made to ensure consumers receive the benefits.
The Victorian Government has determined that the best option for Victoria is to continue with an improved rollout, which makes delivery of consumer benefits the top priority.
Smart Meter rollout is continuing
The State Government review has found the most responsible option is to continue the rollout of Smart Meters to all homes and small businesses by the end of 2013 – with improvements that bring greater benefits to consumers, sooner.
These benefits will include helping consumers better understand and control their energy consumption through devices like in-home displays, and providing households and businesses with more pricing options.
These benefits will include helping consumers better understand and control their energy consumption through devices like in-home displays and web portals, and providing households and businesses with greater pricing choice and billing frequency.
Switching to flexible pricing, which will become more widely available from 2013, will remain optional.
The decision is based on advice from the Auditor-General, who stated in his report on Smart Meters that: "If the project's emerging risks delay the installation of Smart Meters it is likely that consumers will face further cost increases and gain fewer benefits."
The extensive Government review found Smart Metering technology is sound, and with better program management will provide many benefits to the Victorian community.
- Subsidising in-home displays to help households control their energy bills, with some basic in-home displays available at low cost by early 2013.
- Progressively offering remote connections for Victorians moving house from 1 Jan 2012, saving customers around $15, or more than $100 after hours.
- Extending the delay on the introduction of flexible pricing until at least 2013, to allow time for consumers to learn more about their options.
- Ensuring Victorian consumers can choose to remain on flat rates even when flexible pricing is introduced.
- Toughening the regulation of Smart Meter cost recovery by distribution businesses, including through removing the automatic allowance for cost overruns of 10 to 20 per cent put in place under the former Labor government.
Providing greater oversight by government and giving consumer and welfare groups a much stronger voice in the Smart Meter rollout process through a new Ministerial Advisory Council.
The review of the Smart Meter program found:
- At this stage of the program's life, the maximum benefit is delivered by continuing the rollout.
- Smart Meters are safe and fall well within the requirements for electromagnetic and radiofrequency emissions.
- Consumers can benefit from an orderly introduction of flexible pricing, including the continuation of flat rates.
- Greater customer engagement is required to better explain Smart Meters and their operation.
About Smart Meters
A major upgrade of Victoria’s electricity infrastructure means all households and small businesses in Melbourne and throughout the state are scheduled to have their existing meter upgraded with a new digital Smart Meter by the end of 2013. Smart Meters present new opportunities not possible with existing meters.
Smart Meters empower customers to make choices about how much energy they use by providing accurate real-time information about electricity consumption.
Unlike the old metering technology they replace, Smart Meters are two-way, digital communication systems that record electricity usage every 30 minutes and can automatically send this data to electricity suppliers. This will virtually bring an end to estimated quarterly bills and manual meter readings.
Connecting or disconnecting electricity, switching to a new electricity retailer or feeding electricity back in to the grid from roof-top solar panels, will all be cheaper and easier with a Smart Meter. You will no longer need to wait for your next scheduled meter reading when switching electricity companies, making services like this quicker and cheaper. For example, when a customer moves house the charge for meter reading will be reduced from around $20 to approximately $5 with Smart Meters.
How Smart Meters work
Smart Meters measure and record (at 30 minute intervals) how much electricity a household or business is using. There are different Smart Meter models, but the basic functions are the same.
Smart Meters communicate meter readings directly to electricity distributors, eliminating the need for someone to come out and read your meter – whether that is for each quarterly bill, to change your electricity retailer or to reconnect power when you move house. Not only does this reduce fees, but electricity bills will also be more accurate – virtually eliminating estimated bills.
Customer access to accurate information
Using a web portal or an in-home display connected to their Smart Meter, householders and businesses will be able to access accurate and more detailed information about their electricity use. This information will help consumers identify ways to save electricity, thereby reducing their energy costs. It will also help consumers to compare electricity pricing offers from competing providers to make sure they are getting the best deal.
Electricity companies Origin Energy and Jemena have launched Smart Meter compatible web portals, and United Energy are currently trialing a portal.
Locating blackouts and restoring power
Smart Meters can notify your electricity distributor that your power is out in real-time.
These outage alerts can speed up power reconnection because the source of the problem can be pinpointed instantly. Repair crews can be allocated in a priority manner and repairs can begin sooner.
The new meters can then verify whether power has been restored to all meters.
Communicating with customers
Power companies can use Smart Meter technology to help keep the public informed quickly and more accurately. For example, they can better advise the public about the precise locations of power outages resulting from storms and bushfires.
Responsibility for the roll out
Digital Smart Meters are being rolled out by Victoria’s five electricity distributors – CitiPower, Powercor, Jemena, United Energy and SP AusNet – who own and manage the poles and wires that deliver power to homes and businesses across Melbourne and throughout the state.
Electricity meters are the property of the distribution businesses. As such, the businesses are allowed to replace their equipment, and there is an obligation on a property owner to provide reasonable access to their property for this to occur.
Your distributor will contact you prior to the installation of a Smart Meter, advising of a time period in which they will visit your property. You do not need to be present for the installation of the meter but should you wish to make special arrangements please contact the distributor (or its nominated service provider) on the phone number provided in their letter.
To find out who your distributor is go to www.dpi.vic.gov.au/electricitydistributors or call 136 186.
Why electricity meters need an upgrade
With growing energy demand and rising electricity prices, there is a need to give consumers greater control over their energy consumption. New Smart Meter technology will provide real-time information to customers, through devices such as in-home displays and web portals, and half-hourly data to electricity suppliers.
Smart Meter rollout is continuing
The State Government review has found the most responsible option is to continue the rollout of Smart Meters to all homes and small businesses – with improvements that bring greater benefits to consumers, sooner.
All households and small businesses will need to have their meter replaced by 2013. Switching to flexible pricing, which will become more widely available from mid 2013, will however remain optional.