Sydney, Australia --- (METERING.COM) --- October 18, 2012 - Australia’s energy retailers support smart meters and are keen to explore new opportunities with consumers and distributors to share the benefits that flow from smart meter programs – but these benefits are not guaranteed and it incumbent on policy makers and the industry to maximize them through best policy and practice.

This is the basis of the first in a series of five working papers on smart meter policy issues from the Energy Retailers Association of Australia.

Focused on realizing the benefits, the paper offers two principles that should be employed if the benefits are to be maximized. These are that the smart meter rollouts should be consumer-focused and retailer-led; and that consumers should have a consistent experience and be covered equally by consumer protections and privacy law.

Given that retailers in the Australian energy industry are responsible for managing the consumer relationship, the ERAA is of the view that they are best positioned to manage consumer engagement, states the paper. This is the only way to ensure that a smart meter rollout is not just an infrastructure project and have it meet consumers’ expectations and needs.

International evidence shows that energy providers need to consider multiple channels when educating consumers about smart meters and associated products, attempting to influence consumers across all demographics in an informed and targeted way. Retailers are the only parties that can achieve this. Leading from this, the ERAA believes that market-led smart meter rollouts have the best opportunity to meet smart meter policy objectives.

This then forms the subject of the second working paper, which is focused on managing smart meter rollouts and meter ownership to maximize competitive pressure and responsiveness to consumer needs.

The other papers discuss:

  • Competitive neutrality and the importance of ring-fencing monopolistic services from competitive services to ensure consumer benefit
  • Privacy of personal information and how appropriate use and disclosure of smart meter data can be provided for, and
  • Third party and distributor sale of energy management services, and the regulatory changes required to ensure a consistent consumer protections regime and experience across different service providers, and to allow for consumer recourse in the event of any problems.

The ERAA proposes that the overriding consumer protection principle should remain, which is that regulatory frameworks should reflect community expectations about how consumers are supplied with an essential service.