Smart meter installations proving 'nightmare' for electricians
Summary: Electrical contractors say the smart meter installation method is broken and small businesses and customers are feeling the pain because of complicated systems, particularly in New South Wales.....
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(Pictured: Andrew Dwyer of RIC electrics.)
The concerns come as smart metering business Acumen and Origin Energy sent emails this week to sub-contractors who were part of a program to install Acumen meters, informing them that they would no longer be able to complete these jobs because of the "low volume" of installations they were doing.
"It's been an absolute nightmare," says head of Riverina business RIC Electrics, Andrew Dwyer.
Mr Dwyer's business was informed this week it would no longer be able to log jobs to install smart meters to Origin customers and would instead have to arrange for the work to be done by an Origin technician.
Power of choice
RIC Electrics was more focused on chasing meter installation jobs in the years before 2017. Dwyer says things got became difficult when "Power of Choice" regulations meant electrical businesses had to deal with energy retailers to organise meter installations.
The regulations were designed to give customers more power to change providers and transitioned responsibility for deploying meters from distributors to retailers in New South Wales, the ACT, South Australia and Queensland.
At this time, small businesses were given the option to get special accreditation to be part of installation programs like that of Acumen and Origin.
However, electricians say the process has been hurting their businesses and customers and news that the Origin installation scheme is cutting out smaller operators is a concern.
"These people have invested their time, effort and their resources to get skilled up. Now they're being told at a moment's notice, 'no thank you'," chief executive of the National Electrical and Communications Association, Suresh Manickam.
Electricians say the process of registering for an installation programs so they could install meters ran into the thousands.
Businesses say the situation speaks to a broader challenge around metering. Because tradespeople now need to be in contact with energy retailers access the meters in New South Wales, jobs that used to be able to be completed in one stage can now take weeks.
"We install and supply solar systems, and prior to power of choice, we could install the meter at the same time," says electrical contractor Nick Mullins.
"Now the customer has to wait to apply for the meter. For a customer I spoke to yesterday, that took four weeks."
Mullins business, Des Mullins Electrical, is also being shut out of installation jobs through Acumen and Origin.
A new rule from the Australian Energy Market Commission came into effect on February 1 meaning energy retailers must install meters on a date the customer agrees on, or within six working days.
Electricians told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age they believe moves to limit subcontractor involvement, like in the Origin case, may have happened with the aim of streamlining the installation processes.
New energy data readers are helping households around Australia combat high electricity bills by ensuring solar power is prioritised in the home is not sent to the grid.
Some still fear this won't help the situation, particularly in regional areas where there energy retailers don't necessarily have their own staff on site.
"It makes it difficult because customers don't understand the time frames," Mullins says.
A spokesperson for Origin Energy said its approach to installing the Acumen meters involves working with an approved cohort of providers.
"We’re focused on installing meters in a safe and timely manner for customers and we work with an approved list of services providers to help achieve this aim," the spokesperson said.