guide to smart meters and interval meters
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what is an interval meter?
An interval meter, also called a time-of-use meter, is an electronic meter that measures the amount of electricity you use in discrete intervals of time - in the Australian National Electricity Market this means time intervals of 30 minutes.
what is a smart meter?
A smart meter is an interval meter that has in-built communications capability. This means your meter can communicate wirelessly, for example over mobile networks, with your electricity distributor and provide your usage information every 30 minutes if need be.
There are several advantages of smart meters:
- A person would no longer required to physically visit your house every quarter to read your meter, which should eventually lead to lower costs for consumers;
- A technician would no longer be required to visit your property to connect and disconnect your power when you move home, making for faster and cheaper connections and disconnections;
- Smart meters will provide you with much better, up-to-date information about how you use power at home so that you know which appliances are costing you most to use so that you can take steps to reduce the electricity you use; and
- It is also envisaged that smart meters will make it much easier for your electricity distributor to find outages and restore power supplies more quickly.
will smart meters cost me more?
Yes, the cost of the new smart meters will be recovered over time through your electricity bills.
In Victoria, the Australian Energy Regulator has estimated that a smart meter will add $68 per year to a typical household electricity bill. However, they expect this cost to reduce over time. The additional cost will be included on your electricity bill as part of the quarterly supply or service charges.
In NSW, depending upon where you live, there is an extra charge of approximately $20 to $98 per year already added to your power bill if you have an interval meter instead of a standard single-rate meter.
can smart meters save me money?
Possibly - it depends. Once you are on a time-of-use tariff, you will pay a higher rate than you currently do during peak hours of the day but you will benefit by paying significantly less after hours and on weekends. So there is a big incentive for consumers to use less electricity during peak times and more during quieter times.
Whether your household is better or worse off under a time-of-use tariff will depend upon whether you use much power during peak hours (in Sydney peak hours are between 2pm and 8pm on weekdays). For example, if you live in a household where the occupants are at work or school during the week you are probably going to be better off. However, if you are home during the day you could be worse off unless you don't use much power during the day. Research from EnergyAustralia's customers on time-of-use tariffs suggests that 70 percent of households are better off. However, the average saving for Sydney-siders has been estimated at around $50 per year, which might be less than the extra supply charge you pay to cover the cost of the interval meter.
can i choose whether or not i have a smart meter or interval meter installed?
No. The smart meters and interval meters are being rolled out by your electricity distributor and you do not have the ability to opt-out of getting one.
can i choose whether or not i move to a time-of-use tariff?
If you live in the EnergyAustralia network area - the greater Sydney metropolitan area - then you now have a choice. In April 2010 Energy Australia announced that Sydney residents with interval meters can opt to switch back from a time-of-use tariff to a single rate (peak only) tariff. This olive branch was offered to assist those people who were worse off under the time-of-use tariffs.
In Victoria, time-of-use tariffs have not been introduced and are not expected until 2012 at the earliest. The delay is to enable an impact study to be carried out by the Victorian Government so that they can better understand the impact of time-of-use tariffs on the elderly and disadvantaged.
will i lose my off-peak tariff when i get a smart meter or interval meter?
New South Wales residents usually can keep their existing hot water or heat storage off-peak tariff (called controlled load) when they get an interval meter. The interval meter often has a separate register to measure the controlled load usage or alternatively a separate, dedicated controlled load meter would be installed alongside the new interval meter.
The situation is currently somewhat murky for Victorian residents with smart meters installed. In some cases consumers have lost their off-peak tariff and been shifted to a single-rate, peak only tariff. In other cases consumers have been left on their current peak/off-peak tariff. It depends upon both your local electricity distributor and your electricity supplier (retailer). From 2012 it is expected that all consumers with smart meters will be moved on to time-of-use tariffs with peak, off-peak and shoulder rates.
will smart meters be compatible with rooftop solar panels?
Yes, they are made to be compatible and able to regularly measure the electricity you send to the electricity grid from solar panels.
are smart meters being introduced in other states?
No, not yet. Some states are holding limited smart meter trials but have not committed to introducing smart meters at this time. No doubt they are waiting to see what happens in Victoria.
where can i get more information about smart meters and interval meters?
If you live in Victoria, you can visit the Department of Primary Industries website.
If you live in New South Wales, contact your electricity retailer.