Western Australian utilities roll out advanced meters

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Western Power is rolling out advanced metering infrastructure as part of its routine replacement program and for all new meters. Under the $251 million initiative, the Western Australian (WA) government-owned utility will deploy 238,000 advanced meters on the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) to keep up the pace with industry deployment across Australia and globally.

The deployment includes communications infrastructure to monitor two-way flows on the electricity network, which is likely to increase as the uptake of solar PV and electric vehicles continues to grow. The remote reading digital meters will provide Western Power with improved visibility of power flows on the network, which will improve the efficiency and reliability of its operations and services.

On top of that, advanced meters will enhance the utility’s ability to detect safety issues on its network, such as neutral faults, as well as enable WA homes and businesses to have greater visibility and control of their energy use, including managing rooftop solar electricity systems and batteries via new retail products and services.

“Advanced metering technology will help stimulate the next leap forward in electricity innovation,” Western Power says. “When combined with other network-connected technologies such as solar, batteries, home automation devices and applications, they can deliver better products and services for you.”

Previously, the utility installed more than 9,000 advanced meters in homes as part of the Perth Solar City energy efficiency initiative in the period between 2009 and 2012. According to Western Power, the advanced meters enabled participants to actively manage their electricity use and made it possible for participants to reduce their electricity use by $25-$1,000 per year, when combined with other energy efficiency activities.

“Advanced metering technology empowers customers and gives them a choice on how and when they use their electricity,” said WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston. “Once fully implemented, Western Power expects an increase in operational savings from this initiative, which will contribute to putting downward pressure on household energy bills.”

Prepayment for power for Aboriginal communities

Residents in 11 Aboriginal communities across the Kimberley, Mid West and Goldfields will have an easier way to pay for electricity, thanks to the recent installation of 83 advanced prepayment meters by WA regional utility Horizon Power.

In these communities, Horizon Power delivers power to the master meter at the front of the community. Prior to the prepayment meters, residents would have to contribute to pay one community bill regardless of how much power each house used. Over time, this led to more than $1.2 million of debt accumulating across eight of the communities.

“Imagine living in an apartment building with 100 apartments and receiving one bill for the whole building which then has to be divided up between all of the residents, regardless of whether some residents use more or less electricity than their neighbour,” Horizon Power’s project manager Roanna Edwards said. “That was the situation in these communities which came to us for help and Horizon Power was able to assist”.

To complement this installation, Horizon Power has developed an app that allows residents with smart phones to purchase power from the comfort of their home. Those without a smart phone can still buy power for their meters from their local store or post office.

“The residents really like the new system of paying and they have had no issues at all,” Buttah Windee community leader Andrew Binsiar said. “Before we had issues with the prepayment cards because we had trouble getting the cards and then we had debt building up because the old meters were stuck at an older tariff and we had to pay the difference.”

The project involved Horizon Power undertaking network condition inspections, with several electrical safety issues identified and rectified. The initiative builds on last year’s deployment of prepayment meters in the Kimberley communities of Emu Creek, Munthanmar, Bell Springs, Mud Springs and Loanbun.

Horizon Power now has more than 1,300 prepayment meters installed in remote areas throughout the state.