Electricity Prices

New timeframes for installing or repairing meters that ‘share fusing’ between customers

The Australian Energy Market Commission (‘AEMC’), recently consulted on a draft rule change which adjusts the timeframes for installing a new meter, having a meter replaced, or fixing a malfunctioning meter, in those cases where two customers ‘share fusing’.

In this article we set out:

  • The essential background;
  • Existing installation timeframes;
  • The problem with the existing rules;
  • The proposed draft rule introducing new timeframes for metering coordinators, distributors and retailers;
  • The next steps.

Background

In the National Electricity Market (‘NEM’) jurisdictions, that is, Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, authorised energy retailers sell electricity to customers. Where those customers consume relatively small amounts of electricity (such as residential customers), they are known as ‘small customers’.

In selling energy to small customers, retailers must have extensive interaction with two other key actors, ‘metering coordinators’ and ‘distributors’.

In order to sell energy to a small customer, that customer needs to have a connection and metering in place in order to measure the customer’s use of electricity. The retailer appoints a metering coordinator to take overall responsibility for metering at that customer’s connection.

The retailer is responsible for the installation of new meters while the metering coordinator is responsible for the fixing of meters that malfunction.

Distributors are responsible for the ‘poles and wires’ in a certain geographical area and in certain cases their cooperation with retailers and metering coordinators is required.

Installation timeframes

In order to install a new meter, exchange an existing one, or fix a malfunctioning meter, certain timeframes must be complied with by retailers and metering coordinators. This timeframe is 6 business days for a new connection and 15 business days for metering malfunctions or complex connections (with room to agree to a different timeframe with customers).

In order to carry out these meter replacement, there must be a ‘planned interruption’ to the electricity supply which can only be carried out by a retailer or a distributor with notice to the affected customers.

Importantly, the retailer needs the distributor to interrupt the supply of electricity where the supply of a customer of another retailer is affected.

Following set metering installation timeframes is important in order to ensure that:

  1. Customers do not have their energy supply interrupted for a longer than necessary period of time;
  2. Customers can have their new energy arrangements (such as a new electricity offer) in place as soon as possible.
  3. What is the problem?

There are exceptions to meeting these timeframes. One of them is where the installation cannot occur without interrupting the supply of someone else. This can happen where two separate customers ‘share fusing’ at their connection points. This means that there is no timeframe for ensuring that interruptions are as short as necessary.

What is the proposed solution?

It was initially proposed to the AEMC that this problem be addressed by giving metering coordinators the right to carry out a planned interruption to supply.

However, the AEMC decided against this, and came up with a ‘more preferable’ rule for its ‘draft rule’. Being a draft rule, this means that the rule change is yet to be finalised.

The draft rule that AEMC has proposed to deal with this problem provides that, where it is discovered that the installation of an electricity meter, or the rectification of a malfunctioning one, means interrupting the supply of other customers certain timeframes will apply:

  • retailers will be required to install a new meter within 30 days of discovering the shared fusing;
  • metering coordinators will be required to rectify malfunctioning meters within 30 business days of discovering shared fusing;
  • on the request of a retailer or metering coordinator, distributors will need to carry out a distributor planned interruption within 25 business days.

The draft rule also contains a minor amendment clarifying that retailers have the right to interrupt the supply of any of its own customers for the purposes of installing or repairing a meter.

What’s next?

The draft rule remains to be finalised. The most recent indication is that it will be finalised by 21 May 2020. While some work of the AEMC has been de-prioritised in response to the COVID-19 crisis, this proposed rule change has not been.

For further information see the AEMC website.

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