Smart meter rollouts: ‘Slow and steady’ isn’t winning the race. So, how can you get ahead?

‘Smart’ isn’t just a buzzword we put in front of appliances and digital technology for the fun of it.

Anything ‘smart’ is designed to be exactly that. Smartphones, smart TVs, smart home devices, smart cars…we live in the age of ‘smart’ and we’ve come to expect nothing less. Smart things save us time, effort, and often, save us money; so it’s obvious why everyone’s investing in ‘smart’.

We all know that good things take time, but what happens when making something ‘smart’ is a bit too … slow? Well, it costs, impacting service providers and customers alike, and that’s precisely what’s happening with Aussie utilities.

Unfortunately, Australia’s electricity smart meter rollout is a good example of a ‘smart’ initiative that is more than a bit too slow. The Australian Electricity Market Commission (AEMC)’s ongoing review of its five-year-old smart metering rule change has deemed our electricity smart meter rollout a failure. Implementation targets have been missed, with only approximately 25% of residents and businesses across most of the country installed with smart meters. At this rate, Australia’s electricity smart meter roll out will only be completed in 2040.

Digitisation of Aussie utilities must happen much faster if providers are to realise operational cost efficiencies and competitive opportunities, and if consumers are to realise service benefits and cost savings.

2040 is a Long Time to Wait

Here are just 4 fundamental reasons Aussie utilities should speed up their Smart Meter rollouts.

1. Slow Smart Meter Rollouts Cost Utilities & Their Customers Money

It’s no secret smart meters are proven to be more efficient, more accurate and much less labour-intensive than their analogue counterparts.

For instance, Coliban Water’s recent rollout of smart water meters to over 47,000 residents across Victoria’s Bendigo region has seen a significant reduction in water wastage and major financial savings for customers. Coliban’s new smart meters identified previously undetected water leaks at over 260 customers’ homes which, once repaired, saved the utility and the customers 50,000 litres of wasted water per hour; enough to fill Sydney Harbour in two years.

This is just one instance of how these small but mighty devices can detect issues that would otherwise go unnoticed, and reap benefits in time saving otherwise required for leak detection and remedial action. More benefits of smart meters have been reported extensively by McKinsey and Co, including the rise in profitability of the digitised utility by 20-30 percent.

Coliban’s new smart meters identified previously undetected water leaks at over 260 customers’ homes which, once repaired, saved the utility and the customers 50,000 litres of wasted water per hour; enough to fill Sydney Harbour in two years.

And while smart meters play an important strategic role in operational efficiencies and cost savings, they can go beyond this.

Lack of usage visibility can lead to bill shock for customers

A 2021 Canstar Blue study found almost two in five Australians encounter energy bill shock. We know that utilities that fit smart meters into homes and residences can prevent this. Research shows that if consumers can compare their energy usage with peers, consumptions drops by an average of four percent.

A Smart Meter Could’ve Avoided This

With apps for banking, phone and internet plans, energy and environmentally conscious customers also expect to be able to gain insights into their utility services. They want to make informed decisions and understand how their consumption may detrimentally impact the environment, or their wallet, over time.

Less bill shock equals happier customers, which equals less traffic to customer service centres and less burden on customer services teams.

The pandemic has also demonstrated how important online customer interactions are for businesses to boost resilience to macro environmental or competitive shifts; the utility needs to come to meet the customer. Smart meters are fundamental to services that help utilities to satisfy consumers’ transactional and sustainability objectives by presenting timely and accurate consumption data and off-peak tariffs via a mobile device.

While the benefits we’ve mentioned are nothing new, and something we’re all aware of, they’re certainly reason to push forward with this all-important rollout.

Environmental costs, addressing Conservation and Sustainability

The longer the Utility takes on a smart meter rollout, the longer energy consumers are left in the dark (pun intended) with understanding their resource usage.

Similarly, the longer Utilities take to install smart meters, the longer they continue to miscalculate supply and usage volumes. This costs in lost revenue, but more importantly the lost opportunity to engage with customers on sustainability and environmental initiatives.

This snowballs into higher greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants – both counter-productive to the efforts our climate-conscious society is moving to, and with associated financial costs.

If a climate-conscious person religiously uses their keep cup, recycles, rides their bike to work and opts for public transport on weekends, it’s no surprise they want their utility to align with everything else they’re doing for the environment – a utility that allows them to closely watch and control their consumption.

C’mon, keep up with the KeepCup Crowd

As reported by Forbes, the strongest competitive utilities are already creating new offerings around smart homes, energy and water conservation, solar power, community energy and more. These smart utilities will attract and retain those consumers focussed on purpose-driven and forward-thinking corporations.

Activating Carbon Credit Schemes

An increasing number of businesses, corporations and governments are publicly announcing their pledge to become carbon neutral in the near future. These organisations reducing their carbon emissions aren’t just helping the environment and their reputation, they’re helping lower their operating costs through incentives from the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The incentives come in the form of carbon credit units for every tonne of carbon dioxide businesses avoid emitting through new practices or technologies they adopt.

In a recent example, Coles and Woolworths delivered campaigns announcing their carbon emission elimination action plan. But how do we know it’s not simply another PR campaign? On big environmental issues, consumers want tangible outcomes, not just statements, billboards and repetitive TV ads.

The only way to really see results is if businesses are open and transparent. One obvious – and simple – way to be transparent is to use a smart meter, where businesses – irrespective of their size – can accurately report on the emissions they’re producing through measurement and verification.

Become the Hare amongst the Tortoises, and win the Smart Meter Race

Wins

Utilities understand the inherent need to get the smart meter rollout…rolling…and rolling quickly. But the number of hurdles to jump and the challenges utility companies face, even if they’re doing their absolute best to complete the rollout promptly and effectively has contributed to many failed smart meter rollouts in the past.

So how can utilities get ahead while the wheels slowly churn on smart meter rollouts?

Fortunately there are new players in the market, offering unique solutions to fill the data void. These companies promise to deliver regular data readings from existing analogue meters. These applications unlock smart meter benefits, at a fraction of the cost and installation time.

A hybrid, staged digitisation strategy means that utilities can immediately begin to gather valuable meter data to enhance their services, while they continue to budget, plan and rollout their smart meters.

How Does A Hybrid Solution Work?

Snapi offers a digital meter reader that snaps onto analogue utility meters. It’s a clever appliance that does the same things as a smart meter, just without the lengthy trade certified installation process. Current smart meter installation processes drive up costs and losses without opportunity for ROI on legacy infrastructure by sending meters to landfill years before the end of their service life.

Using AI to read customers’ meters in real time, Snapi provides utilities or their consumers immediate insight into their usage. The appliance is fully autonomous and monitored remotely, meaning manual routine maintenance won’t be necessary to keep them ticking along smoothly. That’s less cost and labour for utilities, without compromising on quality and accuracy.

By providing an interim solution that’s effective and helps Utilities to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and keep happier customers without needing to rush through your rollout.

To learn more, contact us here.

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