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					                            Electricity, gas and water meters
FACT SHEET 11— April 2008




                            INFORMATION FOR VICTORIAN CUSTOMERS


                            How will this fact sheet help you?                           Know about meter identifiers
                            Meters seem to have been the same for                        Understand meter types
                            years and years — but the technology
                                                                                         Learn about interval meters
                            is changing. This Energy and Water
                            Ombudsman (Victoria) (EWOV) fact                             Be aware of bill estimation
                            sheet tells you all about meters and
                            explains what’s changing.                                    How you can contact EWOV



                            Properties generally have three meters, one each for electricity,
                            natural gas (if your property has natural gas) and water.


                            Unique meter identifiers                              What are the main types
                            Gas and electricity meters have both numbers          of electricity meters?
                            and unique identifiers. Water meters have
                                                                                  Analogue meters
                            unique serial numbers.
                                                                                  are the old style—with a
                            The electricity meter identifier is called the        spinning disk and a row
                            National Metering Identifier, or NMI. Records         of figures that keeps
                            of all NMIs are held in a database—the Market         adding up your usage
                            Settlement and Transfer Solution (MSATS).             —like a car’s odometer.
                            If you change your electricity retailer, the change   The meter reading data
                            is made against the record of your NMI in MSATS.      can be compared to what
                                                                                  the meter is showing.
                            There is a similar arrangement for gas meters.        If you have peak and
                            They have a Metering Installation Registration        off-peak electricity with
                            Number or MIRN.                                       this old style of meter,
                                                                                  you’ll usually have two
                            These unique identifiers, or meter numbers,           meters and a time-switch.
                            should be on your bill.

                            Do mistakes happen with NMIs and MIRNs?
                                                                                                          Interval meters
                            Yes, they do, particularly in transfers from one                              record usage in half
                            energy retailer to another. The codes are long and                            hour blocks. By around
                            complicated and sometimes mistakes are made.                                  2012, every electricity
                                                                                                          customer in Victoria
                                                                                                          should have an interval
                                                                                                          meter. Bills based on
                            Who reads meters?                                                             interval meters have a
                                                                                                          ‘usage figure’—not a
                            Water meters are read by the water companies,                                 ‘start reading’ and an
                            which also bill their customers.                                              ‘end reading’ that you
                                                                                                          can compare with the
                            Electricity and gas meters are read by electricity                            meter’s total—so it may
                            and gas distributors—these are the companies that                             be harder to check bills.
                            own the electricity poles and wires, the gas pipes
                            and the meters themselves. The distributors send
                            the meter data to the electricity and gas retailers
                            —so the retailers can bill their customers.
                                                                                                           FACT SHEET 11 — April 2008
Electricity interval meters                             Why are some bills
Interval meters are seen as a tool to effectively       estimated?
manage electricity usage. They record usage in
                                                        Electricity, gas and water companies are
half hour blocks, so it’s possible to offer tariffs
                                                        allowed to estimate your bill if the meter
more closely related to wholesale electricity
                                                        reader can’t get to the meter.
costs—potentially reducing usage and
greenhouse gas emissions. Advanced interval             Electricity and gas companies have to use their
meters may also be able to connect or                   ‘best endeavours’ to read your meter at least
disconnect your power remotely— without                 once every 12 months. Water companies have
someone coming to your property.                        to use ‘reasonable endeavours’.
In-home displays will be available—either               If your bill is based on an estimate—rather
through retailers or electrical stores. These give      than an actual meter read—the bill must show
real time information about how much electricity        this. If the estimate is too low, you’ll get a
you’re using and what it’s costing you. When            ‘catch-up’ bill when your meter is later read.
your interval meter is installed, make sure you
get instructions on how to read it. Distributors        Estimated electricity bills are more common
are required to leave that information.                 than gas or water bills—probably because
                                                        electricity meters can be harder to reach.
How are interval meters read?                           Some are inside older houses. Most are on the
                                                        front of the building itself, whereas water and
Interval meters can be read manually and the
                                                        gas meters are generally at the front of the
new smart meters will eventually be read
                                                        property. Locked gates, high fences or dogs
remotely. Smart meters installed from 2009-
                                                        can all block meter access, leading to
2013 may be read remotely and will
                                                        estimated bills.
communicate directly with distributors. This
should overcome problems with meter access.             As a customer, you have to provide access for
                                                        your meter to be read. If access is continually
For more details about interval meters, see the
                                                        blocked, your electricity or gas may end up
Victorian Department of Primary Industries’
                                                        being disconnected—though retailers generally
website at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/energy.
                                                        prefer to provide you with an estimated bill.

                                                        If electricity or gas meter access is a problem,
                                                        consider getting a suitable Victorian Power
Can meters measure wrongly?                             Industry (VPI) lock. Some hardware stores,
                                                        electrical wholesalers and locksmiths stock
There are Australian Standards for meter accuracy.
                                                        them. The distributors have keys for these
Meters can be tested against these standards.
                                                        locks. For more details and pictures of VPI
Generally, if the meter is found to be running within
                                                        locks, see section 4.7 of
the Standards, the customer has to pay for the me-
                                                        http://www.victoriansir.org.au/sirs.html.
ter test. If the meter is found not to be meeting the
Standards, the company pays for the test and            Water companies don’t use VPI locks. If access
amends your bills. Most testing finds that meters       to your water meter is a problem, you can ask
are operating within Australian Standards. If there’s   your water company if they will accept your
a problem, it’s more likely the meter is running too    own keys.
slowly, rather than too fast.

				
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