The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has expressed concern about new legislation that has caused delays in getting power and meters provided to building sites.

The HIA has sent a submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission to report that “builders and owners of newly constructed homes have faced significant delays in getting power provided to site and meters connected”, after the introduction of the Federal Contestable Metering (Power of Choice) legislation last year, according to HIA chief executive Industry Policy, Kristin Brookfield.

Under the new legislation, introduced in December 2017, all new electricity meters installed in new homes must be advanced or ‘smart’. Retailers and metering coordinators (rather than distribution network businesses) are also now responsible for arranging metering services for their customers. 

“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,” says Brookfield.

“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 is a nationwide concern with South Australia and Queensland bearing the brunt of the confusion. Some builders are facing significant financial strain from a situation they aren’t able to control or practically manage. We are also hearing that new home buyers are waiting longer for the power to be connected than the home to be built.” 

The HIA has estimated that these delays are costing home builders at least $2,000 per home.

“HIA is ultimately seeking to have the outcome of the new arrangements be identical to the outcome that was possible before December last year,” says Brookfield.

“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 2 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. 

“HIA considers that for a retailer to be able to provide timely installations, urgent changes to the process are required that permit a builder’s electrician or electrical contractor who has specific qualifications, to run the mains power from the pit or pole to site, hang the meter and power it up, in a single visit.”