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Power bills climb with arrival of new meters

posted Sep 28, 2010, 11:17 PM by ema-1 ema-1   [ updated Nov 10, 2010, 6:40 PM ]
[Waiheke Island]

"When Christine checked her bill for last August against this year's, it showed she had used significantly more units of power. "But nothing has changed in the house." Jeanette was away often in the past three months but her account also shows more units used. Both women were given a range of possible reasons for the increase when they contacted Mercury, including some billing periods being different in length and the old meters under-reading. "It's still telling me I'm using more units than I ever have, " says Christine. The two women say others on the island are experiencing the same thing. They asked if their meters could be checked but were told it would cost them $105 if no fault was found."

"Do I have to have an advanced meter at my house?"

"If your retailer approaches you to install an advanced meter and you are concerned about this, discuss the matter with them. In their contracts with consumers, retailers almost always reserve the right to replace meters at their discretion. In which case, refusal to allow the installation of an advanced meter means you will be in breach of contract. However, you would be within your rights to switch to a retailer that is not using advanced meters. Note that: • At some stage, all retailers may opt to replace existing meters with advanced meters; • If the certification for the existing meter in your house is due to expire, the retailer you switch to will still require access to certify the metering installation prior to expiry; and • Consumer contracts occasionally include penalty clauses for early termination of a contract. Check your terms and conditions."

"Will my power bill increase as a result of an advanced meter being installed?"

"In general, there should be no cost increase to you. However, it is possible that the existing meter has deteriorated and has been measuring inaccurately. There have been cases where consumers have seen billing changes after the installation
of an advanced meter. This is the result of the installation process identifying a problem with the configuration of the existing meter and/or the tariff structure. In other words, the existing meter and historic billing have been in error, and the installation of an advanced meter has picked up the error."

Full text: New Zealand Electricity Commission Smart Meter FAQ:

Fault cuts power to ill baby's breathing machine [unrelated story - archive news]

[Smart grid infrastructure improves fault tolerance and fault management. Along with these benefits - the management infrastructure may introduce new points of failure]

"Gavin Johnson, 50, of Northcote, told The Press his Meridian PowerManager system in his home stopped working this morning. The fault meant that ventilation equipment that helped their baby daughter Ashley, 14 months, to breathe was not working. Johnson said Meridian had told him it was experiencing problems with the PowerManager system - which uses a top-up card to pay for electricity. Ashley was born prematurely and needed help to breathe as her lungs had not developed fully, said Johnson. The family borrowed a generator from a neighbour to keep electricity flowing to the machine until the fault [was] fixed."

"Meridian said the problem was due to an outage in the Vodafone network, which lasted from 7.40am to about noon."

Electricity Commission: Medically Dependent Consumer Guidelines for electricity retailers:

Genesis Energy InCharge prepay system failure [unrelated story - archive news]

"The Chief Executive of Genesis Energy, Albert Brantley, said the breakdown of the payment system was hugely regrettable and he was concerned that users of the service were unable to pre-purchase electricity for a period. [...] Mr Brantley said he was also very concerned about media reports of comments made to customers that they should “toughen up”. [...] “This type of response is contrary to our customer service representative training and is completely unacceptable. We are investigating this report and are reviewing the tapes of conversations with customers over the weekend.”"

"The Genesis breakdown, which affected those who pay for their power in advance, left angry customers some with sick children without heat and light a day after freezing weather brought the first snow flurries to central Wellington in 14 years."