System not meter readers at fault?

On Sunday I wrote about the shocked customers  who received power bills for much larger sums than usual and then blamed meter readers for misreading the figures. 

However, it might be the system, not the meter readers, that’s at fault because rural meters are read only every three months and it is possible that estimates made in the other two months were well below actual usage so there was a huge jump when the actual usage was measured.

The Southland Times says the system needs to improve:

Contact Energy is not necessarily to blame if power bills are big and people have trouble paying them. But it is very much to blame if it is operating an estimates-reliant billing system that is needlessly blowing the budgets of southern households to bits by building up ridiculous log-jams of bad news that explode in a huge catch-up bill…

Actual readings, rather than estimates, occur every two months in urban residential areas and every three months in rural areas. The estimates are based on historical usage. The suspicion is now acute that the system is in sore need of recalibration because it is proving a budgeting nightmare…

Meantime, common sense cries out for consumers to read their own meters and phone through the results so that their bills do regularly and accurately reflect the actual consumption. Frankly, it’s easy to learn, easy to do and it saves a whole heap of budgeting trouble.

Mercifully, it also looks like the meter reader has a finite future in any case. Electricity companies, including Contact and Meridian, are installing smart meters nationwide — technology that allows meters to be read remotely. Roll on the day that this chore becomes automated.

For that matter, who among us wouldn’t welcome an environment when there was more widespread competition between electricity retailers outside the major cities, and more use of comparative tools like the PowerSwitch online calculator which, since 2002, has been helping consumers shopping around for the best electricity deal.

A recent Electricity Commission survey found just 13 percent of respondents had even heard of it.

You can find it here.

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