General policy statement
Smart meters are being installed in many homes by power companies. These meters are designed to provide services useful to the power companies, not the householder. Power companies use them for remote meter reading, data mining about the consumer’s power consumption patterns, and remote disconnection or reconnection.
The same meters could be installed with the capability to enable consumers to manage their power load to minimise cost, on a differential or cost reflective tariff. As well as saving households' money, this would benefit the nation, by making better use of installed electricity generating capacity; delaying the need for more power stations; and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas stations because they would run less. The cost of ensuring meters have this capability when they are installed is very low; retrofitting them later is expensive.
This Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in her report Smart electricity meters: How households and the environment can benefit (June 2009). It does this by ensuring all meters have functionality that enables them to automatically control loads and to talk to smart appliances; and by requiring installers to give consumers the choice to have real-time information about their electricity use and variable tariffs so they can make use of this function if they wish.
Clause by clause analysis
Clause 1 is the Title clause.
Clause 2 is the commencement clause and provides for the Act to come into force on the day after the date it receives the Royal assent.
Clause 3 states that the Bill amends the Electricity Act 1992 (the principal Act).
Clause 4 states the purpose of the Bill, which is to empower domestic consumers to better manage their electricity use by requiring providers of smart meters to inform domestic consumers of their options when being upgraded to smart meters, and setting minimum requirements for the provision of smart meters.
Clause 5 amends section 2 of the principal Act by inserting a reference to the installation, servicing, and upgrading of smart meters into the definition of prescribed electrical work.
Clause 6 inserts a new Part 3A into the principal Act, which—
provides new definitions of AMI, average price tariff, cost reflective tariff, HAN, in-home display, low fixed charge tariff, and smart meter
places obligations on providers of smart meters to inform consumers about particular features
sets minimum requirements for smart meters
provides offences for failure to meet the requirements for disclosure of consumer information and the minimum standards required for smart meters
allows the Governor-General to make regulations regarding the provision of smart meters.