at the Meter: Lessons
From the U.K.Metering lies at the heart of electric competition, but may work best as a "natural" monopoly controlled by the distribution utility.Metering represents one of the more complex issues in retail electric competition (em one that suffers from major misperceptions. In fact, most industry participants remain unaware that metering techniques effective enough for competition (hourly reads, daily retrieval) already exist today not only in scale, but also at low cost.
Issues like transmission pricing receive the most attention, but metering will actually have far greater effects on consumers and any successful operation in a competitive retail environment. The United Kingdom learned that lesson in 1994, when it expanded access from retail suppliers to customers with lower load levels and discovered that over 50 percent of customers' bills had to be estimated.
The United Kingdom began opening retail electricity markets to competition in 1990. Half-hourly metering of customers, with daily data retrieval, currently forms the standard, because the Electricity Pool of England and Wales ("the Pool") prices power by the half-hour (see Figure 1). In 1998, small commercial and residential consumers will be able to choose their power suppliers. This market of 23 million potential customers will bring the metering issue to the fore.