Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

Primary content

SLI 2012 No. 302 Regulations as made
This regulation amends the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 to remove the exemption of the application of Part IV of the National Measurement Act 1960 in relation to certain classes of electricity meters and make other minor administrative changes.
Administered by: Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
Registered 11 Dec 2012
Tabling HistoryDate
Tabled HR05-Feb-2013
Tabled Senate05-Feb-2013
Date of repeal 02 Jan 2013
Repealed by Division 1 of Part 5A of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003
Table of contents.

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

 

Select Legislative Instrument 2012 No. 302

 

A Regulation made under subsection 20(1) of the National Measurement Act 1960

 

National Trade Measurement Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 1)

 

Issued by the authority of the Minister for Industry and Innovation

 

Subject

 

National Measurement Act 1960

National Trade Measurement Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 1)

 

Authority

 

Subsection 20(1) of the Act provides, in part, that the Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with the Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by the Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the Act. Paragraph 20(1)(f) further provides that the Governor-General may make regulations providing for the exemption from the operation of Part IV of classes of gas, electricity and water meters.

 

Purpose and operation

 

The National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (the Principal Regulations) support the establishment of the Commonwealth trade measurement system.

 

The National Trade Measurement Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 1) (the Regulation) removes the exemption of the application of Part IV of the Act in relation to certain classes of electricity meters. This means that the requirements and offences relating to the accuracy of measuring instruments used for trade, which are contained in Part IV of the Act, apply to certain classes of electricity meters including domestic and small business meters.

 

The Regulations also provide the maximum permissible errors (maximum limits of error) applicable for various classes of electricity meters.

 

The purpose of the Regulation is to establish a control system that sets limits on the allowable errors for electricity meters and provides assurances that they are accurate and capable of maintaining accuracy under varying conditions of use such as temperature, and electrical interference.

 

Electricity meter accuracy is an important issue given the rising cost of electricity. The regulatory measure imposes a negligible cost to meter manufacturers and suppliers, estimated as less than one dollar over the life of a meter. In contrast, a meter with a 5% error leads to over or underpayment of $100 per year for a consumer with a quarterly power bill of $500.

 

The Regulation also makes minor amendments to the Principal Regulations to clarify some aspects of the national system of trade measurement.

 

Consultation

 

In November 2010, the National Measurement Institute (NMI) published a public consultation paper entitled, “Consultation Paper on Lifting the Exemption for Electricity Meters under the National Measurement Act”. This paper was published on the NMI website at:

http://www.measurement.gov.au/Pages/consultationelectricitymeters.aspx

It was also listed on the business consultation website:

https://consultation.business.gov.au/consultation/

 

All recognised stakeholders, including electricity utilities and distributors, electricity meter manufacturers, regulators and consumers were contacted directly by email about the consultation.

 

Fourteen written submissions were received (one confidential). The thirteen public submissions are available on the NMI website. The majority of submissions supported the lifting of the exemption. Those that opposed it represented a subset of manufacturers, though many manufacturers support the proposal. NMI has been approving patterns (types) of electricity meters on a voluntary basis for over ten years.

In addition, a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) has been prepared by the National Measurement Institute, in consultation with the Office of Best Practice Regulation, to address the implementation of metrological controls for a subset of electricity meters, including domestic meters, in use for trade. The RIS can be found as Attachment A to this explanatory statement.

 

Overview of the Regulation

Section 1 – Name of Regulation

This section provides that the name of the Regulation is the National Trade Measurement Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 1).

Section 2 – Commencement

This section provides that the Regulation commences on 1 January 2013.

Section 3 – Amendment of National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009

This section provides that Schedule 1 amends the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009.

 

Schedule 1 – Amendments

 

Items [1] – Paragraph 5.6(1)(b)

 

Current subregulation 5.6(b) provides that all electricity meters are exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act which prescribes requirements and offences relating to the accuracy of measuring instruments used for trade.

 

Item [1] amends current Subregulation 5.6(b) so that only certain classes of electricity metres are exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act.

 

Item [1] substitutes the current paragraph 5.6(1)(b) for new paragraphs 5.6(1)(b) and 5.6(1)(ba). This provides that electricity meters that measure less than 750 MWh of energy per year and installed on or after 1 January 2013 are not exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act. Other classes of electricity meter and all classes of electricity meter installed before 1 January 2013 are exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act.

 

Item [2] – Paragraph 5.6(1)(d)

 

Current subregulation 5.6(c) and 5.6(d) provide classes of water meters that are exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act. Subregulation 5.6(c) provides that all water meters installed before 1 July 2004 are exempt. Subregulation 5.6(d) provides that cold water meters installed on or after 1 July 2004 with a maximum continuous flow rate of not more than 4000 litres per hour and which do not exceed the maximum permissible errors mentioned in Schedule 1 to the current Regulations are not exempt, and provides that other classes of water meter installed on or after 1 July 2004 are exempt.

 

A maximum permissible error is the maximum limit of error for a material measure or a measuring instrument.

 

The effect of the current subregulation 5.6(d) is that all cold water meters installed on or after 1 July 2004 that do exceed the maximum permissible error are exempt from the operation of Part IV of the Act.

 

Item [2] substitutes the current paragraph 5.6(1)(d) for new paragraph 5.6(1)(d).

 

This has the effect of clarifying that an exemption to Part IV of the Act is not dependant on whether or not the water meter exceeds the maximum permissible error.

 

Item [3] – Schedule 1, Part 3, Division 2, clause 1

 

Current clause 1 of Division 2 of Part 3 of Schedule 1 provides that for instruments with digital indication a 0.5 scale interval is added to the maximum permissible error for an analog instrument.

 

Item [3] substitutes new clause 1 and clause 1A.

 

New clause 1 clarifies the Current Regulations by providing that for in service inspection of instruments with digital indications, 0.5 is added to the scale interval to the maximum permissible error for in-service inspection that applies to analog instruments.

 

Clause 1A provides that new clause 1 will not apply to an instrument with digital indication if the scale interval for the instrument is less than or equal to 0.2 dm2.

 

The policy intention behind new clauses 1 and 1A is to clarify the circumstances where 0.5 scale interval is added to the maximum permissible error for instruments with a digital indication due to the effect of digital rounding.

 

Item [4] – Schedule 1 Part 3, Division 6, clause 5

 

Current clause 5 of Division 6 of Part 3 of Schedule 1 provides that the maximum permissible error for any load equal to or greater than the minimum capacity and equal to or less than the maximum capacity in automatic operation is set out in table 13.

 

Item [4] substitutes current clause 5 for new clause 5.

 

A catch weigher is a category of automatic weighing instrument, such as those used to weigh product on a front-end loader or in the production of meat packages for sale. New clause 5 clarifies that if the national instrument test procedures that apply to catch weighers eliminate the need for digital rounding, the maximum permissible error for any load equal to or greater than the minimum capacity and equal to or less than the maximum capacity in automatic operation is set out in table 13, minus a verification scale interval of 0.5 e. In any other case, the maximum permissible error is as it is set out in table 13 of Division 6 of Part 3 of Schedule 1.

 

The policy intention of new clause 5 is to clarify that the maximum permissible errors in table 13 includes 0.5 e to account for digital rounding, and to clarify that in circumstances where the test procedure eliminates the effect of digital rounding, 0.5 e is removed from the maximum permissible error.

 

A note to new clause 5 is inserted to provide that the national instrument test procedures are defined in the Act and are available at www.nmi.gov.au.

 

Item [5] – Schedule 1, Part 3, Division 11

 

Item [5] renames the current Table 1 in Division 11 of Part 3 in Schedule 1 to allow the tables in this schedule to have continuous numbering.

 

Item [5] omits the title:

 

Table 1 Maximum permissible errors for water meters

 

and inserts the following title:

 

Table 17 Maximum permissible errors for water meters

 

Item [6] – Schedule 1, Part 3, after Division 11

 

After Division 11 in Part 3 of Schedule 1, Item [6] inserts new Division 12 entitled Electricity meters.

 

New Division 12 provides for the maximum permissible errors in relation to electricity meters.

 

Clause 1 of new Division 12 provides the meanings of symbols used within new Division 12.

 

Ib, for an electricity meter of a kind mentioned in new clause 3, represents the basic current.

 

Imax, for an electricity meter of a kind mentioned in new clause 3 or new clause 4, represents the maximum current.

 

In, for an electricity meter of a kind mentioned in clause 4, represents the nominal current.

 

Accuracy classes

 

Clause 2 of new Division 12 provides classifications for electricity meters into accuracy classes. The accuracy classes are 0.2, 0.5, 1 and 1.5.

 

Maximum permissible errors – direct-connected electricity meters

 

Clause 3 of new Division 12 provides for the maximum permissible errors for direct-connected electricity meters set out in new table 18. The maximum permissible errors for single phase direct-connected electricity meters with an accuracy class mentioned in the table is provided in column 4 or 5 of table 18. The maximum permissible errors for polyphase direct connected electricity meters with an accuracy class mentioned in the table is provided in column 4 or 5 of table 18.

 

Clause 4 of new Division 12 provides that the maximum permissible errors mentioned in column 4 or 5 of table 18 apply at the current rate and power factor mentioned in column 2 and 3 of the table.

 

Clause 4 also inserts table 18. Table 18 sets out the maximum permissible errors for direct-connected electricity meters for a range of current and power factors.

 

Clause 5 of new Division 12 provides for the maximum permissible errors for transformer-operated electricity meters set out in new table 19. The maximum permissible errors for single phase transformer-operated electricity meters with an accuracy class are mentioned in column 4, 5, or 6 of table 19. The maximum permissible errors for polyphase phase transformer-operated electricity meters with an accuracy class are mentioned in column 4, 5, or 6 of table 19.

 

Clause 6 of new Division 12 provides that the maximum permissible errors mentioned in column 4, 5 or 6 of table 19 apply at the current rate and power factor mentioned in column 2 and 3 of the table.

 

Clause 6 also inserts table 19. Table 19 sets out the maximum permissible errors for transformer-operated electricity meters for a range of current and power factors.

 

Item [7] – Schedule 2, Part 1, subitems 5.1 to 5.3

 

Current subitems 5.1 to 5.3 prescribe the licence classes for measuring instruments for the purposes of current subregulation 2.43(25).

 

Item [7] substitutes current subitems 5.1 to 5.3 for new subitems 5.1 to 5.3.

 

The effect of Item [7] is to simplify the language in current subitems 5.1 to 5.3. The amendments in Item [7] do not change the way that current item 5 operates.

 

Item [8] – Schedule 2, Part 1, subitems 10.1 and 10.2

 

Current subitems 10.1 to 10.2 prescribe the licence classes for measuring instruments for the purposes of current subregulation 2.43(25).

 

Item [8] substitutes current subitems 10.1 to 10.2 for new subitems 10.1 to 10.2.

 

The effect of Item [8] is to simplify the language in current subitems 10.1 to 10.2. The amendments in Item [8] do not change the way that current item 10 operates.

 

Item [9] – Schedule 2, Part 1, subitmes 15.1 to 15.3

 

Current subitems 15.1 to 15.3 prescribe the licence classes for measuring instruments for the purposes of current subregulation 2.43(25).

 

Item [9] substitutes current subitems 15.1 to 15.3 for new subitems 15.1 to 15.3.

 

The effect of Item [9] would be to clarify that the servicing licences in relation to quality measuring instruments prescribed for the purposes of current subregulation 2.43(25) relate to grain (rather than protein), cane sugar (rather than sugar) and wine grapes (instead of wine).

 


Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

NATIONAL TRADE MEASUREMENT AMENDMENT REGULATION 2012 (No. 1)

 

This Regulation is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

 

Overview of the Regulation

 

The National Trade Measurement Amendment Regulation 2012 (No. 1) (the Regulation) removes the exemption of the application of Part IV of the Act in relation to certain classes of electricity meters. This means that the requirements and offences relating to the accuracy of measuring instruments used for trade, which are contained in Part IV of the Act, apply to certain classes of electricity meters including domestic and small business meters.

 

The Regulation also makes minor amendments to the Principal Regulations to clarify some aspects of the national system of trade measurement.

 

Human rights implications

 

The Instrument does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.

 

Conclusion

 

This Instrument is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

The Hon. Greg Combet AM MP,  Minister for Industry and Innovation


ATTACHMENT A

August 2012

 

Regulation Impact Statement

implementation for Electricity Meters

 


Contents


1.      Introduction. 1

1.1         The National Measurement Institute (NMI) 1

1.2         Definitions 1

1.2.1        Electricity Meter 1

1.2.2       Sub-meter 1

1.2.3       Transformer 1

1.2.4       Transformer-operated meter 1

1.2.5       Direct-connected meter 1

1.2.6       Pattern Approval 1

1.2.7        Verification. 1

1.2.8       National Electricity Market (NEM) 2

1.2.9       International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) 2

2.     The Problem. 2

2.1         What is the problem being addressed? 2

2.2        Background 2

2.2.1       The National Measurement Act 3

2.2.2       The exemption for electricity meters 3

2.2.3       Pattern Approval 3

2.2.4      Verification. 3

2.2.5       International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) 3

2.3        Current Situation 4

2.3.1       National Electricity Rules (NSW, Qld, Vic, SA and Tas) 4

2.3.2       Electricity Industry Metering Code 2005 (Western Australia) 4

2.3.3       Northern Territory 5

2.4        Why is regulation needed? 5

2.5        The Magnitude of the problem. 5

3.     Objective. 7

4.     Options. 7

4.1        Option 1: Status Quo 7

4.2        Option 2: Lift the Exemption under the National Measurement Act 7

4.2.1       Classes of Meter 7

4.2.2      What about meters already installed? 8

4.2.3      What about transformers? 8

4.2.4      Active energy 9

5.     Impacts of each option. 9

5.1         Impacts for option 1: Status Quo 9

5.2        Impacts for option 2: Lifting the Exemption 9

5.2.1       Pattern Approval 9

5.2.2       Verification. 10

6.     Cost-Benefit Analysis. 10

6.1         Costs 10

6.1.1        Basis for cost estimates 11

6.1.2       Community and competition impacts 12

6.1.3       Other costs and factors considered. 12

6.1.4       Who bears these costs? 12

6.2        Benefits 13

7.     Consultation. 13

7.1         On the proposal to lift the exemption 14

7.1.1        Specific Issues and Responses 15

8.     Conclusion. 20

8.1         Preferred Option 20

8.2        Implementation and review. 20

8.2.1       Implementation. 20

8.2.1.1        Meters in stock 20

8.2.2       Review. 21

Appendix A – Explanatory Memorandum 1998. 22


1.     Introduction

This Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) has been prepared by the National Measurement Institute to address the implementation of metrological controls for a subset of electricity meters, including domestic meters, in use for trade.

It is a result of the Kean review 1995 which was a review of Australia’s Standards and Conformance Infrastructure. It recommended a national system of trade measurement, and resulted in the Commonwealth amending the National Measurement Act 1960 in 1999 to take responsibility for trade measurement in utility meters.

An explanatory memorandum, attached in Appendix A, clearly explains the background to, and assessment of, the amendments to the National Measurement Act along with the accepted method of implementation. The method which is outlined is to initially exempt all utility meters so that controls can be introduced once the infrastructure has been put in place. The exemption for domestic class water meters has already been lifted, taking effect on 1 July 2004, and the infrastructure is now in place to lift the exemption for a subset of electricity meters, including domestic meters.

1.1     The National Measurement Institute (NMI)

The National Measurement Institute is Australia’s peak measurement organisation, responsible for the national measurement infrastructure and for maintaining Australia’s primary standards of measurement. With particular relevance to this RIS, NMI operates under the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth), to ensure measuring instruments are accurate and suitable for their environment.

1.2     Definitions

1.2.1      Electricity Meter

An electricity meter is any meter that measures electrical energy flowing through the meter. For the purposes of this paper, only electricity meters intended for use for trade are considered.

1.2.2      Sub-meter

An electricity meter that lies downstream from a main electricity meter. For instance, a multi-tenant building may have a main meter for the building and individual sub-meters for each tenant.

1.2.3      Transformer

A device that transfers electrical energy from one electrical circuit to another and enables the voltage and/or current levels to be reduced (or increased). For electricity meters, external transformers are external to the electricity meter and produce a reduced level of current (or voltage), proportional to the actual level of current (or voltage).

1.2.4      Transformer-operated meter

An electricity meter used with an external transformer.

1.2.5      Direct-connected meter

An electricity meter that does not operate with an external transformer, but is directly connected to the electrical circuit being measured.

1.2.6      Pattern Approval

Pattern approval is the process of assessing the quality of the design or type of electricity meter. Refer to section 2.2.3 for more information.

1.2.7      Verification

Verification is the process of assessing whether an individual meter operates within specified limits of error. Refer to section 2.2.4.

1.2.8      National Electricity Market (NEM)

The NEM is a wholesale market for the supply of electricity to retailers and end-users. It covers Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

1.2.9      International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML)

The International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) is an intergovernmental treaty organisation to which Australia is a member, and it was established, in 1955, to promote the global harmonization of legal metrology procedures.

2.     The Problem

2.1     What is the problem being addressed?

The problem being addressed is the accuracy and metrological performance of electricity meters used for trade in Australia. Inaccuracies in electricity meters lead to unfair and inequitable charges for the supply of electricity. With the price of electricity on the increase, the potential impact on consumers is becoming ever more important. There is evidence of meters producing very inaccurate readings with discrepancies in the order of 13-14%[1]. This is discussed in more detail in section 2.5.

An inaccurate meter would lead to either over-charging or under-charging the customer. In either case, this introduces an inequity into the trade, to the benefit of some consumers and the detriment of others.

2.2     Background

As outlined in the introduction, the National Measurement Act 1960 was amended in 1999 as a result of the Kean review 1995 to take responsibility for trade measurement for utility meters. An explanatory memorandum, attached in Appendix A, provides a clear assessment and implementation plan.

The National Measurement Institute has developed standards and infrastructure for the testing and approval of electricity meters. This has been developed with extensive industry consultation and is currently adopted by most manufacturers and electricity suppliers on a voluntary basis. The understanding that it is currently adopted by most manufacturers is assumed based on the extensive consultation undertaken by NMI directed at all known manufacturers as well as industry groups including AiGroup. NMI is well aware of the manufactures that have adopted the standards and requirements as NMI (formerly the National Standards Commission (NSC) prior to 2005) has issued certificates of approval since 2001. At the time of writing there have been 58 certificates of approval issued[2], and in fact all of the manufacturers who responded to the consultation have pattern approved meters. The number of separate manufacturers[3] who have obtained approval is 21, with about 14 corresponding to currently active certificates[4]. Refer to section 2.2.3 for more information on pattern approval. Furthermore, NMI has appointed utility meter verifiers for the verification of utilty meters. At the time of writing, there are currently seven appointed utility meter verifiers[5]. Refer to section 2.2.4 for more information on verification.

There is currently an exemption in place for electricity meters in the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth), and one of the proposed options for addressing this problem is to lift this exemption.

2.2.1      The National Measurement Act

The National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth) contains, amongst other things, requirements for measuring instruments in use for trade. Common examples of measuring instruments used for trade include weighing scales, such as those at supermarket registers, and petrol pumps. However, the scope extends to all measuring instruments (other than instruments specifically exempted).

2.2.2      The exemption for electricity meters

The National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009 (Cth) contains an exemption (Regulation 5.6) for certain classes of utility meters, including electricity meters, from the operation of relevant sections of the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth). The exemption for certain categories of water meters has already been lifted, and at this stage the exemption remains in place for electricity meters and gas meters. The exemption was put in place to allow adequate time for the necessary standards and infrastructure to be established. As discussed below, the standards for pattern approval and verification have now been established. The infrastructure, which enables pattern approvals and verifications testing to be performed and assessed, has also now been established.

2.2.3      Pattern Approval

Pattern approval is the process of assessing a type or model of electricity meter. The aim of pattern approval is to assess how the meter performs under various operating conditions and disturbances such as temperature variations, electrical interferences, voltage variations and harmonics. Pattern approval also involves assessment of the markings and display of measurement values. Meters should be marked with the specifications such as rated voltage, and accuracy class for which the meter is designed (and approved) to ensure that meters are used appropriately.

NMI has produced, through stakeholder consultation, a document titled, NMI M 6-1 Electricity Meters[6], that sets out requirements for pattern approval of electricity meters.

2.2.4      Verification

Verification is the process of assessing whether an individual meter operates within specified limits of error. In other words it ensures that individual meters are operating accurately, and therefore the amount of energy that a meter registers (and used to determine how much is to be paid for that energy usage) is known to be accurate.

NMI has produced, through industry consultation, a document titled, NITP 14 Utility Meters[7]. This is a national instrument test procedure (NITP) that prescribes the test procedures for the verification of electricity meters (and other utility meters).

Under the National Measurement Act, verification is assessed in accordance with the national instrument test procedures, and must be performed by an appointed utility meter verifier, appointed by NMI.

2.2.5      International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML)

Australia is a member of OIML and under Section 19A(7) of the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth) regulations shall not be inconsistent with recommendations published by OIML, unless the inconsistency is in the national interest or it is not practicable to be consistent because of particular circumstances applying in Australia.

The relevant OIML recommendation for electricity meters (OIML R 46) is currently close to publication having been approved by the international OIML technical committee. The NMI publication NMI M 6-1 mentioned above is well-aligned with the draft OIML recommendation.

2.3     Current Situation

As discussed above, the National Measurement Act was amended following the Kean review 1995 to take responsibility for trade measurement of utility meters, and this was implemented by including an exemption under the Act ahead of establishing required standards and infrastructure. In the meantime, other regulations related to electricity meters have come into effect under state and territory regulations. There are three different regulatory environments, each discussed below.

2.3.1      National Electricity Rules (NSW, Qld, Vic, SA and Tas)

The National Electricity Rules (NER)[8] apply to participants in the National Electricity Market (NEM). The NEM extends across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania[9].

The National Electricity Rules principally relate to the economic regulation of the National Electricity Market, covering topics such as registration, market rules, and settlements. However, Chapter 7 of the rules also includes requirements on metering which includes a section requiring valid pattern approval issued under the authority of the National Measurement Institute. Verification is slightly different. The term is defined in the National Measurement Act and has the meaning of complying with accuracy requirements when tested in accordance with certain test procedures known as National Instrument Test Procedures (NITPs). It is analogous to accuracy testing which is required under the National Electricity Rules, and the relevant procedures are in practice the same or very similar. Further information on verification is given below in section 5.2.2 including details of utility meter verifiers currently appointed and performing verifications in accordance with the National Measurement Act.

Most electricity meters within the region covered by the NEM are part of the NEM, but not all. In particular, some sub-meters are operated by a participant in the NEM while others are not. Sub-meters may be found in locations such as residential apartment blocks, strata residences, commercial or industrial complexes or caravan parks. The number of sub-meters that are not part of the NEM is not known, but is recognised as a category of meter that is not covered by existing regulation. The need to regulate sub-metering is further discussed below in section 2.4.

2.3.2      Electricity Industry Metering Code 2005 (Western Australia)

In Western Australia, the Electricity Industry Metering Code 2005[10], requires meters to comply with the applicable requirements specified by the National Measurement Institute under the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth). Of course, at present this corresponds to no regulation in Western Australia because the National Measurement Act currently contains an exemption for electricity meters. However, it demonstrates that the Code recognises the importance and relevance of the requirements and is primed to complement the regulation that would be brought into effect by the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth).

It should be noted the Western Australian Electricity Act 1945 does contain requirements around electricity metering, principally relating to the provision of meters and the rights of consumers to have them tested. Upon testing meters are required to register within 2%. However, this Act makes no provisions relating to the metrological properties of electricity meters at design or installation. Specifically, there is no requirement analogous to pattern approval or verification.

2.3.3      Northern Territory

In Northern Territory, there is currently no known applicable regulation covering the accuracy and performance of electricity meters.

2.4     Why is regulation needed?

As discussed in the introduction, the decision that there was a need to regulate utility meters (electricity, water and gas) was made following the Kean review 1995 with amendments made to the National Measurement Act 1960 in 1999. The background, assessment and implementation of this are detailed fully in the explanatory memorandum attached in Appendix A.

Regulation is needed to ensure that electricity meters are accurate and fit for purpose. Accurate means that the meter operates within limits of error (for example, the meter reads within 1% of what the meter should be reading). Fit for purpose means the meter is not affected (outside acceptable limits) by operational or environmental conditions such as voltage variations or temperature. Refer to the pattern approval and verification sections (2.2.3 and 2.2.4) for more information.

The existing regulations for electricity meters cover most meters in Australia, so the proposed regulatory change (see 4.2 Option 2) merely seeks to close the gap and create a level playing field for all consumers by ensuring that regardless of where one lives, they will be provided with nationally consistent and equitable levels of consumer protection for their supply of electricity.

Deregulation of the utility markets has enabled customers to have choice in their energy retailer, but utility distributors decide which type of meter to install, and customers do not have any choice in the selection of the meter. Whilst there are some incentives for distributors to want to use accurate and fit for purpose meters, there are competing incentives to choose lower cost meters and desirable features, and the resulting selection of meters is ultimately a business decision based on multiple factors, only one of which might be meter accuracy.

The accuracy of individual meters is far more important for individual consumers than the utility distributor. For the utility distributors, the total revenue across all meters may not be critically affected by the individual accuracy of each meter, but is more related to the average accuracy of the meters. In other words, there is some incentive for the utility distributors to have meters operating moderately close to accuracy, but if some are reading high and others are reading low, then it might be a reasonable assumption that they would cancel each other out – from the perspective of the utility distributor. However, the situation is vastly different for the individual consumer where one single meter determines the cost of their bill.

The same issue is even more apparent in the case is sub-metering. Sub-metering may be used to allocate a proportion of an energy bill amongst individual parties. There is little market incentive for the sub-metering provider to choose more accurate meters, as the total amount charged will not be affected; only the proportion that each party will be required to pay will change, and inaccurate meters will lead to unfair and inequitable charges.

For these reasons, it is considered that the accuracy and fitness for purpose of meters is not something that can be resolved by market forces, and regulation is considered to be necessary.

2.5     The Magnitude of the problem

There is evidence of meters with very high inaccuracies in the order of 13-14%. An example provided in response to the consultation is as follows. A sub-metering business attended a site where the building owner had installed a non-approved meter in series with an approved meter (where approved means pattern approved). The non-approved meter was installed for the purposes of checking the measurement. By being placed in series, the two meters would be expected to produce equivalent readings on energy usage.

It was found that there was a discrepancy between the two readings showing a 13-14% higher reading on the non-approved meter. The non-approved meter was then replaced with a second non-approved meter of the same type. It was then found that the second non-approved meter was showing a 9% lower reading than the approved meter.

Both of the non-approved meters were marked as complying with IEC standards as a class 1 (1% nominal accuracy) meter. IEC standards are discussed further in section 7.1.

The second non-approved meter was removed and replaced with another NMI pattern approved meter. It was then found that the two approved meters were reading within 0.43% of each other, which is within the nominal 1% accuracy.

This example illustrates the presence and magnitude of problems, particularly in the area of sub-metering, but does not in itself illustrate the scope of the problem.

A measure of consumer confidence, such as the number of consumer complaints, is often used as an indicator of the magnitude of a problem. However in the case of electricity meters, there are two principal reasons why this is not considered to be a relevant and achievable metric. Firstly, there is very little ability for the consumer to sense the actual amount of electrical energy consumed, and secondly significant data on consumer complaints is difficult to obtain. Each of these is discussed below.

Consumers generally have very little ability to determine or sense whether their electricity meter is accurate. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, unlike say buying apples, the amount of electrical energy being consumed cannot be seen or sensed directly. Furthermore, the measurement of energy is accumulative, and consumers are generally billed over an extended period (such as 3 months), making it extremely difficult to have a sense or recollection of the expected energy consumption. Energy bills commonly include graphs or comparisons to facilitate reconciliation with previous billing periods, but there could be various reasons for variations. Variations in consumption may be attributed to leaving lights on or greater use of electric devices such as heaters, or newly purchased devices, so it is extremely difficult to assess what component of this is related to the accuracy of the meter.

The advent of smart meters has dramatically increased the complexity with a far greater level of abstraction from the comparatively simple traditional accumulation meter. Consumers with a smart meter may be billed by time of use, which means there is no longer a simple accumulated energy register that consumers can attempt to use to reconcile their bill. Instead, energy consumption at different times of day or different days of the week can be accumulated separately, with a different billing rate associated with each. The ability to sense whether your smart meter is operating accurately is all but impossible for even the most conscientious consumers.

The other reason why consumer complaints on meter accuracy are not considered as a viable indicator of the magnitude of the problem is that significant data is not easily obtainable. Utilities, retailers and sub-metering providers are understandably not willing to provide information on consumer complaints or details on detected meter inaccuracies. Similarly, meter manufacturers clearly have strong motivation to not share any information regarding meter inaccuracies.

Nevertheless, based on detailed but infrequent evidence such as the example given above which demonstrates the presence of wildly inaccurate meters, and an understanding of the lack of incentive to install accurate meters (particular in the area of sub-metering) the magnitude of the problem is reasonably assumed to be significant.

This is of course all in addition to the decision to regulate utility meters made back in 1999, fully explained in the explanatory memorandum attached in Appendix A.

Regulation of meters that achieves the aims of pattern approval and verification is in effect in all states and territories covered by the NEM, so that leaves Western Australia and Northern Territory. Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics of June 2011, there are approximately 2.6 million people living in Western Australia and Northern Territory, which equates to about 11% of the population of Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census reports 8,426,559 private dwellings in Australia, and assuming 1 electricity meter per private dwelling, that equates to approximately 965,000 domestic electricity meters that are currently not regulated in Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Based on data to June 2011 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Register, the total number of non-household businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory is 94,650. It is assumed that the number of small business sites with applicable electricity meters would be approximately 50% of these, which equates to approximately 50,000 meters.

These figures do not include the additional sub-meters physically located within the NEM, but not operated by a participant in the NEM. The number of these meters is not accurately known because they are not regulated, but based on industry feedback and discussions with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), it is assumed to be in the order of 2% to 10% of all (domestic and small business) meters with the regions covered by the NEM. Assuming a middle estimate of 6%, the estimate of the total number of electricity meters that are not regulated is approximately 1.4 million. This corresponds to 14% of the estimated total number of meters in Australia (10 million).

3.     Objective

The objective is to ensure that the measurement infrastructure for electricity meters in Australia is based on accurate measurements which are suitable for their environment.  Currently some meters are regulated through state legislation (NER), so specifically the objective is to achieve nationally consistent application of standards to achieve this objective, so that all measurements of electricity for trade in Australia are accurate and nationally consistent.

4.     Options

This section presents options for addressing the problem.

The option of self-regulation was considered and assessed as not feasible, because it has been observed that the problem is not something that can be fixed by the market itself. Aside from the evidence of meters producing significant errors in the measurement of energy usage, the structure of the market, particularly for sub-metering, does not provide adequate incentives for accurate metering.

The only options considered as feasible are presented below.

4.1     Option 1: Status Quo

One option would be to do nothing, leaving the existing situation as described above in section 2.3.

4.2     Option 2: Lift the Exemption under the National Measurement Act

Another option would be to lift the exemption under the National Measurement Act, to introduce uniform national regulations for electricity meters.

This option would mean that the requirements for using measuring instruments for trade in the National Measurement Act would apply to electricity meters with an annual throughput of less than 750 MWh. This corresponds to all domestic meters, as well as small business meters. More information on the selection of these categories is provided below in 4.2.1.

These requirements mean that electricity meters supplied, installed and used for trade would need to be of an approved pattern (see Pattern Approval, section 2.2.3) and that meters used for trade would need to be verified (see Verification, section 2.2.4).

4.2.1      Classes of Meter

The term class is used here to refer to the classification of a meter based on usage throughput. This descriptor was chosen as it corresponds to “installation types” established in the National Electricity Rules.

It is proposed to lift the exemption for meters with an annual throughput of less than 750 MWh. This would include all domestic-class meters (typical domestic usage is in the order of 5 to 10 MWh), as well as small business meters that fall under this limit. For meters with an annual volume greater than or equal to 750 MWh, the exemption would remain.

Table 1 below illustrates the installation types established under the National Electricity Rules along with a guide for the corresponding applications. Installation types 5 and 6 correspond to domestic meters, and the limiting values x and y vary between state and territory jurisdiction. Installation type 4 may also correspond to domestic meters, but also covers some small business applications. Domestic meters may be either type 4, 5, or 6, but do not correspond to any other higher types, so installation type 4 corresponds to the lowest annual throughput limit with a consistent value throughout the jurisdictions.

Installation type 3 corresponds to larger industrial applications. Installation type 2 corresponds to major high energy industries such as smelters. Installation type 1 is the rarest and corresponds to very high voltage metering applications.

There are several reasons for specifying a volume limit for lifting the exemption. The main reason is that high capacity meters are fewer in number and more specialised so the concept of pattern approval is not so directly applicable and economically justifiable because the lower economies of scale would result in greater unit costs.

Another consideration is that higher-capacity installations utilise transformer-operated meters and external transformers (refer to section 4.2.3 below). At present external transformers are not covered by the requirements but may have a significant affect on the accuracy of the metering system. All domestic meters are direct-connected[11].  Nevertheless, the proposal is to lift the exemption for all meters with an annual throughput of less than 750 MWh, regardless of whether or not the system incorporates external transformers. In others words, the proposal is to lift the exemption for all meters with an annual throughput of less than 750 MWh. In the vast majority of cases, certainly for all domestic metering, meters do not have external transformers. In the case where there is an external transformer, there are currently no requirements specifically for the transformer, but nevertheless the meter itself will need to comply with the requirements.

Table 1. Installation types established under the National Electricity Rules with indicative guide for applications.

Installation Type

Throughput limit per annum per connection point

General guide for possible use

1

Greater than 1000 GWh

Rare. Very high voltage.

2

100 to 1000 GWh

Major industry (eg: smelter)

3

0.75 to less than 100 GWh

Large industry

4

Less than 750 MWh

Domestic, small business (eg: supermarket, retail outlet)

5

Less than x MWh, where x varies by jurisdiction.

Domestic, small business

6

Less than y MWh, where y varies by jurisdiction

Domestic, small business

4.2.2      What about meters already installed?

The exemption would be lifted only for meters installed on or after the date the exemption is lifted. This means that meters installed prior to this date would not need to be removed or replaced.

4.2.3      What about transformers?

Transformers for electricity meters are devices that produce a reduced level of current (or voltage), proportional to the actual level of current (or voltage). As stated above, domestic meters are not used with external transformers.

Some electricity meters are designed to operate with external transformers whilst others are direct-connected. The performance and accuracy of external transformers are not covered by the current requirements simply because these have not yet been fully developed.

NMI intends to develop requirements for external transformers. This would involve further stakeholder consultation.

4.2.4      Active energy

Active energy is a measure of energy flow through a meter. It may be thought of as the usable component of the energy. Other measures of energy, such as reactive energy, relate to measures of energy loss. The currently established requirements apply only to the measurement of active electrical energy.

Domestic energy consumption, typically reported on energy invoices in units of kWh (kilowatt-hours), is a measure of active energy. Other measures of energy are important to energy suppliers and distributors as a measure of energy losses.

NMI intends to investigate and develop requirements for reactive or other appropriate measures of energy. This would be following the introduction of controls for active energy measurement and would involve further stakeholder consultation.

5.     Impacts of each option

5.1     Impacts for option 1: Status Quo

This option would result in no additional regulatory costs for manufacturers. A large proportion of meters would be covered by the existing state regulation as described in section 2.3 above.

However, this option would not address the problem for all meters, leaving the potential for inaccurate measurement of electrical energy usage depending on the location and ownership of the meter. This option would perpetuate the partial and inequitable regulatory framework for the supply of electricity. In addition, industry participants that have complied on a voluntary basis in the expectation of mandatory controls would begin to question their need to invest in pattern approval. So to do nothing would likely result in a gradual reduction of the existing voluntary compliance.

5.2     Impacts for option 2: Lifting the Exemption

This option would result in additional regulatory costs for those manufacturers that are not already complying voluntarily with the existing requirements of the National Electricity Rules. This would likely result in a small increase in the price of some electricity meters and place all meter manufacturers on the same footing. This additional cost would be expected to be passed on to consumers.

However, the benefit is a nationally consistent approach that provides a level playing field for all manufacturers and consumers. It addresses the great inequity of partial regulation where most consumers have regulated meters but a small proportion do not. It will provide confidence in the accuracy and suitability of electricity meters and of equity between consumers.

It should be noted that this option has been discussed with industry for many years and follows the Kean review 1995 and subsequent amendments to the National Measurement Act in 1999 to take responsibility for trade measurement of electricity meters. NMI has been issuing approvals for over 10 years. NMI also has appointed Utility Meter Verifiers who currently conduct verifications in compliance with the National Measurement Act.

It is also the agreed implementation plan as outlined in the Explanatory Memorandum in Attachment A.

In summary, this option proposes to close a small gap in the regulatory framework for electricity meters by lifting the of exemption for a subset of electricity meters as an implementation of trade measurement for utility meters following amendments to the National Measurement Act in 1999.

5.2.1      Pattern Approval

The fees for Pattern Approval are generally charged based on an hourly rate, so the specific costs depend on the complexity of the measuring instrument, and the level of preparation on the part of the submittor. A submittor is the party applying for pattern approval, and is typically the manufacturer. An estimate of the average fees charged by NMI for the assessment and approval of an electricity meter is $3,360. This is in addition to costs for external laboratory testing. Typically pattern approval testing is in the order of $15,000 to $35,000[12], and this varies with meter type and functionality.

It should be noted that pattern approval costs are applicable only once to approve the pattern of a meter. When amortised over the total number of production meters, the affect on the cost of a single meter becomes relatively small. For example, if the total cost of the approval (NMI fees plus laboratory testing) is $25,000, and the number of production meters is 100 000, that corresponds to 25 cents per meter.

NMI (formerly the National Standards Commission (NSC) prior to 2005) has been approving electricity meters since 2001. All meters complying with the meter approval requirements under the National Electricity Rules would have been through this approval process, so there would be no additional regulatory costs here for these manufacturers.

5.2.2      Verification

Verification must be performed by an appointed utility meter verifier. Utility meter verifiers are appointed by NMI and there is a fee to establish and maintain the appointment from NMI. These fees are currently $1100 for three years, which is approximately $367 per year.

At the time of writing there are eight appointed utility meter verifiers for the verification of electricity meters. These appointments include meter manufacturers and utilities.

There would be no additional regulatory costs for the verification of meters performed by these appointed authorities. However there would be costs associated with the verification of additional meters to close the regulatory gap. These additional verifications may be covered by existing authorities or new additional authorities.

6.     Cost-Benefit Analysis

Option 1 above is to maintain status quo and so there are neither direct costs, nor benefits associated with this option. However there are transaction costs associated with the provision of sub-standard meters for some consumers. Also there would be the cost to society of the gradual unravelling of existing voluntary controls once the prospect of mandatory controls was removed. It is not possible to estimate these costs.

Option 2 is to lift the exemption for electricity meters under the National Measurement Act. As stated above, this is not the introduction of new regulation, but rather the implementation of the trade measurement responsibilities under the National Measurement Act, to effectively close the gap in existing regulation. The National Electricity Rules cover most electricity meters in use for trade in Australia (estimated at approximately 86%, refer to section 2.5), and many manufacturers already comply with the proposed regulatory requirements (refer to section 2.2). For this reason, it is only necessary to consider the compliance costs for additional manufacturers in order create a level playing field with nationally consistent regulations.

6.1     Costs

Table 2 presents the compliance costs associated with the option 2. It covers both one-off costs and ongoing-costs, and includes lower, middle and upper estimates for the costs and expected numbers of additional approvals and utility meter verifier appointments required to close the regulatory gap.

These costs cover all meters covered under option 2: domestic meters and small industrial and commercial. In many cases, the same physical meter may be used in all applications. Similarly, the costs also cover meters and sub-meters.

The compliance costs do not include costs associated with the accuracy of a meter. There are several reasons for this. An NMI pattern approval is issued with an associated accuracy class (there are four accuracy classes: 0.2, 0.5, 1, and 1.5), but this option would not involve NMI specifying or regulating applications for accuracy classes. The accuracy classes reflect the nominal accuracy classes actually present in the market. More importantly, based on discussions with manufacturers and currently approved meters, the accuracy designation is not considered to be a major factor in the costs associated with this option. The actual cost impact is considered to be relatively independent of accuracy. As discussed above, the same physical meters are sometimes used in different applications and may be approved with multiple accuracy classes. For instance, a single pattern approval certificate may be for both class 0.2 and class 0.5, because the meters are physically the same or very similar. This is the case for some currently approved meters. Therefore no distinction is made between the costs related to the accuracy of meters.

Table 2. Compliance costs for option 2 (lifting the exemption for electricity meters under the National Measurement Act).

Compliance costs

Lower estimate

Middle estimate

Upper estimate

Laboratory testing

$15,000

$25,000

$35,000

NMI Approval Assessment

$2,560

$3,360

$4,160

Additional approvals

5

8

11

Total Compliance Cost (non-on-going)

$87,800

$226,880

$430,760

Number of meters per approval [1]

500,000

300,000

100,000

Compliance cost per meter (non-on-going)

$0.18

$0.76

$4.31

Utility Meter Verifier appointment costs for verification (per year)

$367

Additional Utility Meter Verifier appointments

2

3

4

Total Compliance Cost (on-going per year)

$733

$1,100

$1,467

Number of meters verified per year [1]

100,000

50,000

10,000

Compliance cost per meter (on-going)

$0.01

$0.02

$0.15

Total Compliance cost per meter

$0.18

$0.78

$4.45

Note [1]: For the purposes of estimating best and worst case scenarios, the upper and lower estimate for the number of meters has been reversed in the table. That is, although the lower estimate of meters per approval is 100,000 it is presented in the ‘upper’ column as it is applied to the upper estimate of compliance cost to derive a ‘worst case’ compliance cost per meter.

Table 2 shows that the compliance cost per meter is in the range of $0.18 to $4.45, with a middle estimate of $0.78. So the one-off additionally cost for a meter installation is very small. It should be noted that this cost is only related to meters that are currently not complying with existing regulations and would place those meters on an equal footing with meters that currently comply.

6.1.1      Basis for cost estimates

The estimates for laboratory testing are based on industry feedback. There is some variability depending on the meter type and this is reflected in the range of estimates.

The estimates for NMI approval assessment are based on actual costs for approvals issued by NMI over the last few years.

The estimates for “Additional approvals” are based on the existing number of approvals issued, which at the time of writing is 58 in total, with 42 still active, and the fact that existing regulation covers most meters. The current rate of approvals is approximately 6 per year, and the estimate for additional approvals has been set at a slightly higher number in order to adequately cover an expected increase in the number of approvals due to the introduction of the regulation.

The estimates for “Number of meters per approval” are based on feedback from industry and are supported by analysing the number of dwellings and meter types. The estimated total number of meters in Australia (see section 2.5) is approximately 10 million. With an estimated need for 50 (active) approvals, and assuming 1 meter per dwelling, this gives approximating 200,000 meters per approval. The actual number of meters per approval varies with manufacturer and model, so an estimated range of 100,000 to 500,000 has been assumed.

As stated in 5.2.2, the Utility Meter Verifier appointment cost is a prescribed value at $1100 for 3 years, or equivalently $367 per year.

The estimates for “Additional Utility Meter Verifier appointments” are based on the existing eight appointments, and the fact that existing regulations cover most meters. It is assumed that two to four additional appointments would be sought.

The estimates for “Number of meters verified per year” are based on feedback from the existing appointed Utility Meter Verifiers. A wide range has been chosen between the lower and upper estimates as there is some variability in the number of meters verified by different utility meter verifiers. However, it is noted that the affect on the compliance cost per meter is very small.

6.1.2      Community and competition impacts

The cost impacts associated with this implementation on community and competition are considered in this section. There is not considered to be any cost impact on the community aside from the compliance costs identified above which are estimated at approximately 78 cents per meter.

The impacts on competition have been assessed as very minor. As identified earlier in this RIS (in section 2.2), all of the meter manufacturers who responded to the consultation currently have pattern approved meters. It is recognised that this regulation will impose some costs on other manufacturers looking to enter the market, but given the quite small estimated compliance costs, this impact is considered to be very minor.

6.1.3      Other costs and factors considered

It should be noted that these costs are associated with metering and as stated in 4.2.3, external transformers are not currently covered. Whilst external transformers do affect the overall accuracy of the measurement system, this regulation (without requirements for transformers) is considered to achieve the objectives of being nationally consistent because transformers are used where current levels (and hence energy usage) is too high for direct-connection. Current levels for domestic metering enable direct-connected metering, and transformer-operated meters are not used for domestic metering. No such instances are known to NMI. Therefore, the regulations are certainly considered nationally consistent for domestic meters, and also considered as nationally consistent for consumers with equivalent energy usage.

Other costs associated with the implementation (refer to section 8.2), specifically the potential costs associated with meters held in stock were also considered. As specified in section 8.2, NMI has established provisions for grandfathering as a transitional means to address the issue of non-approved meters held in stock. These grandfathering provisions will enable manufacturers to use existing stocks, and is offered by NMI at no cost to industry. Therefore, the only expected costs associated with this transitional provision are minor administrative costs for industry associated with providing stock inventories and NMI processing and issuing grandfathering certificates. NMI considers the associated costs to be negligible.

6.1.4      Who bears these costs?

The relevant stakeholders identified in relation to this RIS are:

  • Industry - Meter Manufacturers[13]
  • Industry - Utilities[14]
  • Consumers
  • Government

All of the costs specified in Table 2 are borne by industry. No costs are directly borne by the consumer. Ultimately it is expected that all industry costs would be passed on to consumers, but only for those consumers affected by the small sub-set of utilities who currently are installing unapproved meters. Utilities who currently install approved and verified meters will bear no additional costs and there would be no costs to pass onto their consumers.  No costs are borne by government.

Table 3. Compliance costs for option 2 categorised by stakeholder.

Stakeholder costs per meter [1]

Meter manufacturers

Utilities

Consumers

Government

Laboratory testing and NMI approval

$0.76

-

-

-

Utility Meter Verifier appointment costs for verification [2]

$0.02

-

-

Note [1]: Costs are based on middle estimates from Table 2.

Note [2]: Utility Meter Verifier appointment costs are borne by either the meter manufacturer or utility, depending who undertook the task of verification.

Industry stakeholders are divided into meter manufacturers and utilities. Most of the costs will be directly borne by the meter manufacturers. Some costs are borne by utilities where the utility conducts verification as an appointed utility meter verifier. Table 3 summarises who bears the costs.

6.2     Benefits

The benefits for each category of stakeholder are listed in Table 4 below.

Table 4. Benefits for option 2 categorised by stakeholder.

Stakeholder

Benefits

Meter manufacturers

Meter manufacturers will benefit from a level playing field that ensures they will not need to compete with manufacturers of sub-standard meters. Furthermore, the requirements are well-aligned with the draft international standard (OIML R 46) making national requirements consistent with international standards.

Utilities

Utilities will benefit by having assurances that the meter they purchase and install complies with the expected standard of accuracy and expected performance under varying operational and environmental conditions.

Consumers

Consumers will benefit by having assurances that their particular meter is accurate and of a nationally consistent standard, and therefore providing assurance that the associated price is accurate and nationally consistent. With the increasing price of energy, and increasing consumer awareness of energy usage and energy efficiency, the benefits of accurate and nationally consistent measures of energy usage are correspondingly more important to consumers.

Government

No recognised economic benefit for government.

The regulations provide confidence in the accuracy and suitability of meters for the measurement of electrical energy. However, it is important to bear in mind that this option 2 is not introducing full regulation of the sector, but rather extending it to close the gap in almost complete regulation. So the actual benefits of this option are to provide accurate and suitable measurements for all manufacturers and purchasers of electricity meters. Measures of the economic benefits of providing accurate and suitable metering are difficult to quantify, and so they are instead presented qualitatively. This regulation will additionally provide all consumers with nationally consistent consumer protection. The provision of fair and equitable regulatory systems for consumers is of fundamental importance.

7.     Consultation

NMI has conducted a number of consultations related to the proposal to lift the exemption for electricity meters. Most recently, NMI conducted a public consultation, seeking feedback directly on the proposal.

7.1     On the proposal to lift the exemption

In November 2010, NMI published a consultation paper entitled, “Consultation Paper on Lifting the Exemption for Electricity Meters under the National Measurement Act”. This paper was published on the NMI website[15], and listed also on the business consultation website[16]. All recognised stakeholders, including utilities, meter manufacturers, regulators and consumers were contacted directly by email about the consultation. The following consumer groups were consulted:

·         Australian Consumer Association

·         Consumer Action Law Centre

·         Consumer Federation Organisation

·         Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre

·         Public Interest Advocacy Centre

This consultation paper sought feedback on (1) the impact of lifting the exemption, and (2) comment on appropriate classes of meter for which to lift the exemption. Fourteen written submissions were received (one confidential). The thirteen public submissions are available on the NMI website.

The majority of submissions supported the lifting of the exemption. Some opposed it, and most sought clarification on the time frame and implementation. NMI produced a responses document, which is also available on the on the NMI website (on the same webpage as the consultation). This document provided a response to all of the issues and questions raised in the submissions.

The submissions that opposed the proposal were from the manufacturers, though it should be noted that not all manufacturers opposed the proposal, indeed most manufacturers already comply with the proposed requirements. The three principle issues that were cited are: barrier to entry, compliance costs and adequacy of IEC standards.

With regard to barrier to entry, it was stated in a submission that this regulatory change would impose an unjustified barrier to manufacturers entering the market, or who do not currently have approved meters. Specifically, a submission stated: “If the exemption is lifted [we] would be strongly affected as our meters are not currently NMI pattern approved even though they fully comply with IEC standards. We have grave concerns that this would negatively impact fair and open competition in the Australian electricity meter market. Specifically, we reasonably foresee that there would be a significant movement towards the few select competitors in the market who currently have NMI approved electricity meters. The proposal therefore imposes an unjustified barrier to entry which has the effect of making the metering market less contestable, unfairly protects the few select market participants who already have undertaken voluntary NMI assessment and pattern approval and unnecessarily increases the cost of doing business in this market.”

The NMI response states that it is not believed that this would introduce an unjustified barrier to entry. Manufactures, and the industry as a whole, have been aware of the movements towards lifting the exemption for many years, as evidenced by the fact that to date there has been over 50 meters approved over the past 10 years. Furthermore, the requirements are well-aligned with the draft OIML R 46[17], which is an international recommendation for electricity meters. Under Section 19A(7) of the National Measurement Act 1960 (Cth) regulations shall not be inconsistent with recommendations published by OIML, unless the  inconsistency is in the national interest or it is not practicable to be consistent because of particular circumstances applying in Australia.

With regard to compliance costs, it was stated in a submission that there would be significant costs, however, no specific costs were provided. It is acknowledges that there would be costs associated with this proposal, and these are dealt with in this paper. However, it should be recognised that in compliance with the National Electricity Rules many manufacturers have already undergone the process of meter review, modification and testing to produce a compliant meter.

With regard to the adequacy of IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards, a submission suggested that compliance with IEC standards should be adequate and questioned the justification for differences to IEC standards. IEC standards are principally industry-driven standards, drafted primarily by manufacturers for manufacturers. The relevant standards for electricity meters are IEC 62052.11, 62053.21, and 62053.22. The NMI response states that NMI held extensive consultation with industry when developing NMI M 6, and again in 2009 - 2010 when NMI M 6 was revised. The same issue has been raised in OIML Technical Committee 12 (the committee responsible for OIML R 46), and was overridden by the majority of members who believe the differing requirements are necessary and important for consumer needs. The NMI requirements of NMI M 6 are well-aligned with the draft OIML R 46.

The OIML R 46 standard and the IEC standards are to a large extent quite similar, but certain requirements and tests differ. For instance, OIML R 46 has more extensive requirements for ensuring that meters are not unduly affected by radiated electromagnetic fields. The international OIML technical committee determined that meters should be immune to fields up to 6 GHz, whereas the IEC standards specify up to only 2 GHz. The justification behind this decision relates to the current environment in which we live with mobile and other radio communications operating in the range between 2 and 6 GHz. For instance, radio communication standards used by smart meters commonly operate within this range.

The development of IEC standards is largely influenced by industry and so the resulting standards are very effective at facilitating standardised test methods and design requirements. However, metrological requirements are intrinsically related to consumer protection and the structure and operation of OIML and OIML members facilitates the active participation of government and regulators who liaise with industry and consumers when developing the standards. OIML Members cover in total 86 % of the world's population and 96 % of its economy.

7.1.1      Specific Issues and Responses

Table 5 summarises the issues raised in the consultation and provides responses for each. Some comments seeking clarification on administrative or technical details have been omitted, although all of these comments have been addressed in the responses published on the NMI website on the consultation.

Table 5. Issues raised from the consultation and NMI responses.

Comments / Issues

NMI responses

Comments were received about the justification and clarification of requirements in NMI M 6 and adequacy of IEC standards.

NMI held extensive consultation with industry when developing NMI M 6. Furthermore, NMI M 6 was recently revised (2009 - 2010), and further industry consultation was conducted.

NMI M 6 aligns closely with the draft OIML R 46, which is being developed by the international treaty organisation OIML (International Organisation of Legal Metrology). NMI M 6 does in fact also largely align with AS/IEC standards. Specific differences are listed in Annex B of NMI M 6. NMI has liaised with individual stakeholders who requested specific clarifications on particular technical details of some tests.

Concerns were raised about loss of functionality and impacts on the physical size of meters.

“For example, data centre installations are currently metered down to the individual circuit level. Meters for this application are able to meter up to eighty four circuits simultaneously. Replacing this type of meter with eighty four currently pattern approved meters will cause a very large increase in the metering space required and reduce the efficiency and functionality of such installations. Such changes may cause installation owners to re-think the methods they use to re-coup electrical and mechanical service costs.

NMI considers this to be a misunderstanding. The proposal and requirements in NMI M 6 do not restrict the size and functionality of meters. The intention of pattern approval is to ensure a meter is able to operate within limits over a range of conditions (temperature, disturbances, etc). It is not intended to limit (or even specify) size or functionality.

Concerns were raised about the expiration, cancellation and review of pattern approval certificates, as well as the impact if approval requirements change.

 

There was some misunderstanding among stakeholders about the expiration or cancellation of pattern approval certificates, and a perceived impact on existing meters.

The expiration and cancellation of pattern approval certificates only relates to the continued manufacture of new meters. The Act is drafted so that a meter is considered to be of an approved pattern if it had a valid approval at the time of manufacture. So if an approval certificate is cancelled, say because a manufacturer discontinues that product, then meters that were made when the certificate was valid are still considered to be of an approved pattern.

Similarly, when a pattern approval certificate is reviewed, it may be cancelled (as discussed above), reviewed without change, or amended. If it is amended, again this only relates to the manufacture of new meters – already manufactured meters are still considered to be approved.

Pattern approval requirements can and do change. However, consultation is always conducted for any significant changes and appropriate transitional periods may be implemented.

Requests were received for exemptions where trials are conducted.

An exemption would not be granted for trials. NMI has an established procedure for dealing with trials whereby NMI may grant provisional certificates for site trials. This is generally only considered for a small number of instruments, and where the majority of approval testing has been completed. Site trials may be discussed as part of an application for pattern approval.

Concerns were raised about possible time delays due to a “flood” of pattern approval testing being sought ahead of the proposed regulatory change.

NMI currently has one active approving authority (UL International in New Zealand, formerly known as Parkside). It is believed that this laboratory has sufficient capacity for the market. NMI acknowledges that there is likely to be an increase in pattern approval applications, and has taken this into consideration when proposing timeframes and liaised with the appointed approving authority to assess and monitor.

Clarifications were sought on software/firmware changes. This has particular relevance the AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) where software updates may be made over the network.

NMI recognises that the importance and use of software is increasing across most measuring instruments. Also, updates are not only implemented in newly manufactured instruments, but also in existing instruments through remote (network) updates.

The consistent policy of NMI across all types of measuring instruments is that changes may be made provided they do not affect the metrological performance of the meter. If a change is likely to affect the metrological performance, then the pattern approval certificate owner would need to contact NMI for approval. Depending on the level of impact expected, NMI may approve the change (with or without modifications to the certificate of approval), or request further information or testing.

Based on experience and feedback from industry, the majority of changes would not be considered metrologically significant, and in most cases there would be no need to contact NMI

Clarifications were sought on obligations for meter vendors.

 

The Act provides penalties for supplying or selling a meter for trade that is not of an approved pattern.

Comments were received stating the need to finalise NITP (National Instrument Test Procedure) for Utility Meters

This was agreed and at the time of the consultation, NMI was actively consulting with industry on the development of NITP 14 for Utility meters. NITP 14 has been finalised and was published in September 2011.

Comments were received that sought clarification on the requirements for refurbishment and in-service testing as required under the National Electricity Rules.

The National Measurement Act requires meters to be approved and verified. With regards to repairs or adjustments, the relevant section of the Act is Section 18GQ. In short, if adjustments or repairs that affect the metrological performance of the meter are made, then they must be performed by a utility meter verifier and the verification mark must be obliterated. So, if in-service testing could be performed without affecting the metrology (and we have no reason to believe it couldn’t), then this would not affect the verification of the meter.

Refurbishment may be a different story. NMI would expect that refurbishment may affect the metrological performance, and therefore, the meter would need to be of an approved pattern (or grandfathered) and verified if it was refurbished and re-installed.

It is expected that manufacturers would be able to provide guidance on what adjustments or repairs would be acceptable. It is not possible to list allowable adjustments or repairs as each meter may be constructed differently.

Clarifications were sought on the applicability of the Act and concerns about the potential impact of jurisdictional controls.

The National Measurement Act does not apply to the reverification of utility meters, not is it intended to exclude or limit the concurrent operation of any State and Territory law relating to improper practices in connection with utility meters used for trade (refer to Section 4A of the National Measurement Act).

Clarifications were sought on the interpretation of the Act for meters that are relocated.

NMI considers that meters may be relocated, taking into consideration the requirements for repairs and adjustments.

Concerns were raised that there would be a significant movement towards the “few select competitors” in the market who currently have NMI approved electricity meters. “The proposal therefore imposes an unjustified barrier to entry which has the effect of making the metering market less contestable, unfairly protects the few select market participants who already have undertaken voluntary NMI assessment and pattern approval and unnecessarily increases the cost of doing business in this market.”

NMI has drafted NMI M 6 with extensive consultation with stakeholders. NMI (previously NSC) has been approving electricity meters for over10 years (since 2001).

The majority of submissions received support the proposal and given the amount of time, consultations and development of infrastructure, it is not believed that the proposal would impose an unjustified barrier to trade.

Concerns were raised that customers may prefer approved meters for non-trade uses, and that this imposes further impacts.

The National Measurement Act only covers utility meters in use for trade, and pattern approval is the process of approving types of meters for use for trade. The scope of NMI M 6-1 has beed revised to clarify that the requirements have been developed and are intended for electricity meter to be used for trade.

Concerns were raised about compliance costs, the extent of consultation undertaken and the comment in the paper that industry is “now largely receptive to the proposal”.

 

NMI acknowledges that there would be costs associated with this proposal. The purpose of the consultation process is to seek such feedback, and this RIS includes cost-benefit analysis.

It should also be acknowledged that NMI has been approving electricity meters for 10 years. The consultation paper does indicate that the metering industry is now largely receptive to the proposal. This was the feedback received prior to the consultation, and is supported by the overall feedback received through the consultation.

Comments were received suggesting to use a timeline for the lifting of the exemption aligned with the hardware configuration of the meter.

One meter could be suitable for > 750 MWh pa, or 40 MWh pa.

Annual throughput limits are a convenient way of classifying meters, and this aligns with the classification of meters under the National Electricity Rules. Furthermore, this approach will ensure that meters will be covered by the Act regardless of technology.

The current infrastructure for approving and verifying meters covers single phase and three phase meters, and so NMI sees no reasons to defer three phase meters.

It is acknowledged that there could be a particular pattern of meter that could be suitable to measure a wide range of annual energy usage, however there is a need to place a limit, and 750 MWh, aligns with a meter installation type boundary under the National Electricity Rules, and is considered to be an appropriate limit.

Comments were raised that manufactures/vendors may not know the annual throught limit (MWh per year) for a particular installation.

NMI acknowledges that vendors may have limited knowledge or control over the application for a purchased meter. The Act requires meters sold for use for trade to be of an approved pattern. The Act also contains requirements for the installation and use of meters, so the installer and user also have obligations to ensure that meters are verified (and hence pattern approved). So obligations lie with both the vendor and owner.

Comments were received suggesting the proposal should only be considered for domestic customers

“It is understood that the main objective of the lifting of exemptions for electricity meters is to provide protection to domestic customers who do not have the knowledge, capability or capacity to influence the choice and accuracy of the meters used in their installations and not per se to maximise the number of meters in the market covered by the National Measurements Act.  The lifting of exemptions could more logically be applied to meters used in domestic premises rather than based on any particular level of annual consumption.  In this regard, even option 1 covers far more meters than is necessary for customer protection.
One could debate whether the lifting of exemptions adds any additional confidence to installation metering accuracy above that which is already provided under the National Electricity Rules.

Consumer protection extends beyond just domestic customer. All users of electricity meters for trade, whether they are individual consumers, commercial, or otherwise, should be able to have confidence in the measurement.

Questions were raised about penalties under the National Measurement Act relating to inaccurate use and use of inaccurate meters (Section 18GD and Section 18GE).

There are two sections in the Act that specify penalties relating to meter accuracy. Section 18GD relates to inaccurate use. A traditional example is a greengrocer placing their finger on the scales whilst weighing apples. In other words, this penalty relates to how the instrument is used. Section 18GE on the other hand provides an offence for using or supplying a measuring instrument for trade where the instrument gives an inaccurate measurement.

These penalty clauses are vital for controlling the use of measuring instruments for trade.

There were specific concerns raised in the feedback about results from in-service sampling and that characteristic distributions may imply some meters lie outside accuracy tolerances. If there are large numbers of meters and a sampling system is employed, then it would be expected that the compliance levels be set to a satisfactorily high level, so that the probability of any meters being outside the limits is satisfactorily low. Of course, any individual meters that were tested and found to be inaccurate must be taken out of service.

As the Act does not apply to reverification, NMI has not developed more extensive guidelines or requirements for in-service inspections.

8.     Conclusion

This RIS addresses the problem of metrological control of electricity meters in use for trade. This is important because it corresponds to the ability of meters to operate accurately and maintain accuracy under conditions of use. The accuracy of meters is fundamental for ensuring the fair and equitable metering of the supply electricity.

This paper presents two options: Option 1 is to maintain the status quo, and Option 2 is to lift the exemption for electricity meter under the National Measurement Act. Existing partial state regulation through the National Electricity Rules is also discussed, and it is shown that Option 2 would effectively close the regulatory gap.

8.1     Preferred Option

Option 2 is the preferred option.

This is based on the fundamental importance of a fair and equitable regulatory system and the minor impact on the cost of a meter

The cost-benefit analysis presented in this RIS yields for option 2 a total compliance cost per meter of between $0.18 and $4.45, with a middle estimate of $0.78. This cost is borne by the manufacturer. In cases where the verification is not performed by the manufacture, a very small component of this (middle estimate of 2 cents) is borne by the utility meter verifier. There are no costs borne by government or consumers directly.

Manufacturers benefit from consistent national regulation that provides a level playing for all manufacturers and avoids them having to compete against cheaper, sub-standard meters. Another benefit for utilities and consumers is the confidence of accurate and suitable meters for the accurate and reliable measurement of energy consumption, leading to accurate and equitable charges for energy consumption. A further benefit for consumers is the reduction in transaction costs for some consumers of electricity who would otherwise have meters that over-register energy consumption.

8.2     Implementation and review

8.2.1      Implementation

The implementation of the preferred option would be straight-forward because the proposed regulation is essentially an extension of existing regulation. NMI has been providing the service of pattern approval for electricity meters for over ten years. It has been on a voluntary basis (from the point of view of the National Measurement Act 1960), but has been widely adopted by industry and enacted under the National Electricity Rules as described in section 2.3.1.

In terms of regulatory amendments, the only required amendment will be to lift the exemption for the appropriate categories of electricity meters. An equivalent legislative framework exists for domestic water meters, with the exemption for water meters having been lifted already.

8.2.1.1      Meters in stock

A significant number of electricity meters are held in stock by meter owners. Some of these meters are not of an approved pattern and so if the exemption were to be lifted, these meters would not be permitted to be installed. In order to address this issue, NMI has proposed to provide for the grandfathering of meters.

Grandfathering is the process of granting an approval for types of meters. It has been applied previously by NMI when introducing metrological controls for a type of measuring instrument to recognise existing and established instruments and to enable them to continue to be used. Note grandfathering would not enable the continued sale of meters.

The process for grandfathering is as follows. NMI would contact all known meter owners to seek requests for grandfathering. Meter types would need to be currently in use. NMI would consider applications for grandfathering on a case by case basis.

This implementation process is designed to minimise the transitional impact on utilities by enabling them to continue to install recognised meter types they hold in stock.

It should be noted that meters installed prior to the lifting the exemption (implementation of this preferred option) are not affected. That is, meters installed prior to the lifting of the exemption will remain exempt.

8.2.2      Review

The proposed option is not expected to present significant changes or challenges for a number of reasons. The framework and infrastructure for implementing pattern approval and verification is already in place as the system has been running on a voluntary basis for over ten years. Furthermore, industry adoption of the requirements has lead to implemented regulation covering most of the market. As discussed above, the proposed option is considered necessary to implement the regulations consistently across Australia.

NMI has an on-going commitment to meet the objective stated in this RIS, and would actively review the progress by monitoring and responding to feedback received from stakeholders.

Furthermore, within five years, a full review will be conducted on the impacts of the regulation. This is expected to be incorporated into other on-going reviews mentioned in this RIS including the adoption of the international standard OIML R 46, and metrological requirements for transformers. This review will include consultation with stakeholders seeking feedback on the regulation and an assessment of the assumptions and impacts stated in this RIS.


Appendix A – Explanatory Memorandum 1998

This appendix contains the explanatory memorandum for the National Measurement Amendment (Utility Meters) Bill 1998.


 

 

 
























 



[3] The actual number of manufacturers is somewhat variable as manufacturers have merged and changed names over time.

[4] Currently active certificates correspond to those not expired or cancelled. It should be noted that 16 of the 58 certificates have expired or been cancelled. An expired or cancelled certificate simply means that the particular approved meter type is no longer being manufactured. Meters manufactured prior to the certificate being cancelled are still pattern approved meters.

[5] Appointed utility meter verifiers are listed on the NMI website here: http://www.measurement.gov.au/measurementsystem/Pages/LegalMetrologyAuthoritiesAppointed.aspx.

[6] The document NMI M 6-1 Electricity Meters is available for download at: http://www.measurement.gov.au/Publications/PARequirements/Pages/default.aspx.

[8] The Rules are made under the National Electricity (South Australia) Act 1996 which can be found at the South Australian Legislation website: http://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/index.aspx.

[9] The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) operates the National Electricity market. The website is http://www.aemo.com.au/.

[10] The Electricity Industry Metering Code 2005 may be found at the State Law Publisher website of the government of Western Australia: http://www.slp.wa.gov.au/Index.html.

[11] Transformer-operated meters are not required for the relatively low currents (and voltages) delivered to domestic residences.

[12] This is based on industry and laboratory feedback.

[13] Meter manufacturers include agents or any party applying for pattern approval.

[14] Utilities include any party responsible for the installation and use of electricity meters for trade.

[17] See the OIML website at http://oiml.org/.