Canberra, Australia --- (METERING.COM) --- July 13, 2009 - Australia’s Ministerial Council on Energy (MCE) has endorsed a distributor led rollout of smart meters and has released the second draft of the proposed smart meter bill for the country's national electricity market.

This new draft bill incorporates the MCE’s Standing Committee of Officials’ (SCO) policy response to the submissions received on the first draft bill.

The proposed amendments to the National Electricity Law (NEL) are intended to provide heads of power for state and territory energy ministers to mandate pilots and rollouts of smart meters. These legislative changes support the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) commitment to a staged national mandated rollout of electricity smart meters to areas where benefits outweigh costs, states the policy response paper.

The NEL amendments contain proposed legislative provisions implementing MCE’s policy decisions on the legal architecture of the national smart meter framework.

These proposed amendments are intended to define the rollout responsibilities and provide high level guidance on the scope of the rollout. The amendments are to specify the mechanism facilitating an obligation to roll out or trial smart meters in a jurisdiction and to outline the concept of smart metering for this purpose. This is then to be supported through technical and operational details for smart meters to be included in the rules and subsidiary instruments.

These provisions are to work alongside, rather than replace existing Victorian rollout arrangements, says the policy response paper. Whilst the Victorian rollout arrangements will not drive the development of the national framework, they will play an important part in the development of an optimal national framework. Work is continuing to ensure that the Victorian project can transition at the earliest possible opportunity in a manner that does not compromise efficient investments in that state.

At its meeting last week the MCE also released a draft transitional rule under which regulated distribution network operators, in complying with a ministerial smart meter rollout determination, would be the exclusive providers of metering services for relevant metering installations during the transition to smart metering.

The MCE also was advised that Queensland intends to provide the group with a timetable for the implementation of a smart meter pilot by the end of July 2009, and that Western Australia is actively considering the way forward for smart meters.

In its meeting communiqué the MCE noted that there is still a range of uncertainty about costs and benefits of smart meters.