Power of Choice
By Mario Santini
Since December 1st, 2017, new regulations are in place in regards to your electricity meter. These new regulations were recommended by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) and are ironically labelled 'Power of Choice'.
The most significant changes under Power of Choice are:
- You can no longer choose a standard electricity meter; every new install or replacement meter must be a 'smart' meter;
- All new meters are now managed by the electricity retailer and not by the distributor.
Therefore, Rainbow Power Company does not provide meter installations anymore. A newly installed grid-interactive solar system may however require a new meter. Customers are encouraged to contact a range of energy retailers to determine where they can get the best deal. While at it, you may also want to compare all other fees and charges, as well as feed-in tariffs.
Other intentions of Power of Choice include:
- Introduce competition to metering market in order to lower cost and to better respond to customer and industry demands;
- Give consumers better access to consumption data;
- Standardise communication protocols for integration with other services (e.g. demand response, end user services, etc);
- For more info, check out AEMC's Power of Choice page.
At the time of the generous solar feed-in tariffs, the so called gross meter was very popular. It allowed the end user to export ALL of the solar production to the grid. These meters all but disappeared after the end of the NSW Solar Bonus scheme. Now, nearly all meters are net meters and are classified by their 'intelligence':
- Accumulation meter: can only count the power going through it, regardless of time;
- Interval meter, also referred to as time-of-use meter: can only accumulate, but for separate time periods for import and exports;
- Smart meter: reports back to base automatically. In theory, this is all it takes to be smart. However, if this is done frequently and the data is kept on file, a detailed record of energy import and export could be used to draw all sorts of conclusions.
Smart Meter Dilemma
The data from your smart meter is not necessarily sent to the retailer directly; there's a man in the middle, e.g. the manufacturer of the smart meter or smart meter service provider. Your retailer may choose to forward any charges for this service to you, or absorb them.
At this point, most retailers and/or smart meter service providers do not share the details of the data collection with the customer unless explicitly requested. There is no incentive in place to offer accessibility of that data to the end user, apart from the usual market forces.
A key recommendation of the AEMC was to 'give consumers better access to their electricity consumption data'. When comparing electricity retailers, RPC suggest to enquire about access to your consumption data.
Alternatively, most grid-interactive inverters now offer a free online portal where you can monitor your solar system production data online. With the addition of an inexpensive energy meter, you can also view your consumption data. Interestingly, this service is pretty much a standard these days, and no-one calls it 'smart'.