Electricity Meter Changeovers Still A Problem In South Australia

Electricity meter

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The failure of some electricity retailers to adapt to a new electricity metering regime has been highlighted in a report by South Australia’s Energy & Water Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman’s 2018-19 annual report indicates total complaints rose by 4%, which followed a 17% increase in the previous financial year. Electricity issues made up 81% of all cases received by the Ombudsman’s office during the year.

“It is a relatively small rise but nevertheless it is a frustrating rise because the competition changes came into effect at the end of December 2017, so retailers have now had 18 months to get things right,” said Ombudsman Sandy Canale.

There were more than 1,400 complaints in connection to so-called “Power Of Choice” reforms whereby the task of installing new and replacement electricity meters was taken from Distributed Network Service Providers (DNSPs) and given to electricity retailers.

Meter Upgrade Complaints For Solar Installs In 2018/19

While total complaints to South Australia’s Ombudsman may have represented a “relatively small rise”, 2018-19 saw a 29% increase in complaints related to meter installation or removal. Complaints regarding delays in meter upgrades associated with solar power installations represented the biggest subcategory.

Here’s how the year panned out in terms of solar-related electricity meter upgrade complaints:

  • July 18: 79
  • August 18: 76
  • September 18: 72
  • October 18: 58
  • November 18: 63
  • December 18: 38
  • January 19: 63
  • February 19: 85
  • March 19: 66
  • April 19: 67
  • May 19: 65
  • June 19: 41

The true number of meter upgrade delays (or other issues) would of course been higher as the above just indicates solar power system owners who became frustrated enough to lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The level of complaints in June was the lowest for the year, but it’s not clear if the level has continued at a similar, lower or higher rate since the start of the 2019/20 financial year.

Deadlines for electricity meter installations were introduced by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in February this year – which was also the month that saw the most complaints in South Australia.

The AEMC’s rule states electricity retailers must perform a simple meter exchange by a date agreed with the customer. If there is no agreement on timing, the retailer is obligated to perform a meter exchange within 15 business days. In the case of a new electricity meter installation, that must occur within six business days unless a date is negotiated with the customer.

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator notes there were 21,877 small-scale solar power installations in South Australia in 2018 (full year) and to September this year, more than 16,527 systems had been installed. I don’t have figures on how many of those installations required a meter upgrade.

South Australia’s Energy & Water Ombudsman’s 2018-19 annual report can be downloaded here.

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