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Recent legislation has delayed the length of time it takes for a new house to be connected to the grid by a significant amount, which has one industry expert calling foul, claiming that both buyers and builders will be “left in the dark” unless new changes are implemented.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA)’s chief executive industry policy Kristinhas expressed her dissatisfaction with the Federal Contestable Metering (Power of Choice) legislation due to connection times now becoming up to eight times as long.
Under the “Power of Choice” legislation, which came into effect in December 2017, all new electricity meters in new homes have to be “smart” meters, but this is causing significant delays, according to Ms Brookfield.
“The unintended consequences of the new arrangements have seen the typical time for electricity connections to new homes increase from less than two weeks from making an application to 16 weeks in some cases, with most now taking around 8 weeks,” she said.
“The delay is the result of needing to involve both the electricity network utility and the retailer in coordinating the installation.
“Splitting of duties between the network utility and retailer has resulted in what was a simple process now becoming far more complex. In terms of getting power to the site, getting a meter hung and getting the new meter powered up, the process now goes through eight sets of hands instead of the previous one.”
This issue is being felt on a national scale, especially in South Australia and Queensland, with Ms Brookfield saying that some new home buyers are waiting longer for power to be connected than the entire property being built.
“Builders and home owners all over the country are suffering today and unless immediate action is taken many more homes will be affected and home owners will be literally left in the dark,” she said.
NSW however has laws which allow for electricians to install the meters, but regional areas are still facing issues, according to Ms Brookfield.
“The dramatic increase in the connection timeframes has seen home builders using portable generators for building work and in handing over a new home. There are also cases were the builder is unable to be hand over the keys on the new home due to the absence of power,” she said.
“We are also seeing extreme situations where home builders are being penalised for delays in completion dates.
“HIA has conservatively estimated that these delays are costing home builders and ultimately the home buying public at least $2,000 per home, but those costs are likely to be higher depending which state you’re in.”
Ms Brookfield also said that the federal government has asked the Australian Energy Mark Commission to require electricity retailers to install the appropriate meters for customers within six days. If the retailer does not comply within the six day period, then they will face fines.
“This move is a good first step, however, the process to make this change is slow moving and could take up to a year. Industry and home owners need immediate action,” Ms Brookfield said.
“HIA is ultimately seeking to have the outcome of the new arrangements be identical to the outcome that was possible before December last year. That is, a builder, home owner or the builder’s electrician, must be able to place a call to a single entity and within a maximum period of two weeks a new smart meter be installed, the site powered up and commissioned and power be available to be used for either the construction phase of the project or by the time the home is completed, whichever the client wishes.”