Local builders and electricians have been thrust upon “chaotic changes” from a power provider that have delayed the construction industry.
Smart metering business Acumen and Origin Energy recently sent emails to sub-contractors who were part of a program to install Acumen meters, informing them that their accreditation has been revoked and they would no longer be able to complete these jobs.
Electrical contractors in Wagga said changes brought into effect early last year to smart meter installation methods have wreaked havoc on small businesses and customers.
“The previous process to install meters from any retailer was through an ASP accreditation but that all changed with a ‘power of choice’ and energy retailers now manage installation of meters through a network provider, like Essential Energy, who have their own accreditation,” said head of Wagga business RIC Electrics, Andrew Dwyer.
“This takes a lot of extra time, extra tools and different reporting methods.
“Just the other day they pulled our accreditation and it’s frustrated us a lot because we used to be able to do the whole job ourselves within a week and now it’s taking up to four weeks to put a meter in.”
Local builder Wayne Carter said he is fed up with these problematic changes that have “slowed” the industry.
They’ve taken a perfectly good working, thriving industry and wrecked it and we just have to sit back and see what happens.Wagga electrician Anthony Campbell
“New processes were implemented by way of our electrical trades who were qualified to connect our home sites and have had to do a course costing thousands of dollars to school them to adopt changes to a new system to the power box,” Mr Carter said.
“My electrician and 810 others have been informed by Acumen that their accreditation has been revoked.
“Now we have to wait for their installer to be appointed and then turn up to connect power to the site.”
Installers and technicians are engaged by meter providers like Acumen, not by Origin.
Mr Carter said he has not come across “anything so arrogant” that has affected process in a very long time.
“The arrogance knows no bounds; why have the electricians waste their time as it has costed them so much time and money to implement the changes in the first instance,” he said.
“As one builder from Tumut said, ‘who would want to be a builder nowadays’.
Lake Albert resident Graham Barrow had trouble getting a solar meter fitted just before Christmas.
“I had just paid $10,000 for solar panels and couldn’t use them for three months until the smart meter was installed,” Mr Barrow said.
“I got somebody out to put the solar on and then they said a meter will have to be installed as I’m in an older area and that went on for nearly eight weeks.
“A bloke came from Sydney and he said he couldn’t fit it because of the fuses on the box and he wasn’t licensed to do that across the road.
“I rang back and was told to wait another two weeks and then called and said you need a qualified electrician, so I called Mick Tancredi to put the three fuses on.”
Mr Barrow said he called the provider again and was told he was at the bottom of the list and three weeks later he got the smart meter in.
“It was very frustrating and now whoever you buy your electricity off, they have to do that meter,” he said.
“We weren’t supposed to turn it on and they never told me that I would have to spend more money and there was nobody to talk to.”
Wagga electrician Mick Tancredi said this debacle has been “a nightmare” and is affecting level two sub-contractors across the region.
“We’re all in the same boat and this is a certain procedure we have to abide by, but it’s frustrating when the old system worked fine,” Mr Tancredi said.
“This Acumen bomb that was dropped has stopped us from doing our work that we’ve been doing for 18 to 20 years.”
Electrician Anthony Campbell said this has been a “nuisance” to not only his business and those in the construction industry, but also to homeowners.
“My daughter is building a home and we put in for the connection of power on December 2 and we’re still waiting to have the meter fitted,” Mr Campbell said.
“They have been using a generator to build their house, which is a lot of noise and having to keep up the fuel and it’s just painful.
“You shouldn’t have to wait more than two months when previously we could just fit in-house and pick up the meter at the local depot.”
Mr Campbell said his “hands are tied” but it was not “worth the cost” of going through courses every year to maintain accreditation.
“They’ve taken a perfectly good working, thriving industry and wrecked it and we just have to sit back and see what happens.”
However an Origin spokesperson said builders and electricians were notified of the changes.
Origin and Acumen wrote to Accredited Service Providers last last year and again in January to notify them of the changes to the scheme.
“We’re focused on installing meters in a safe and timely manner for customers and the meter providers we use work with an approved list of services providers to help achieve this aim,” the spokesperson said.