Understanding Indigenous communities' use of pre-payment electricity metering across the Northern Territory

Understanding Indigenous communities' use of pre-payment electricity metering across the Northern Territory

Pre-payment token metering has been in use for residential electricity in the NT for over 20 years, with widespread use of pre-payment metering commencing in 1994. There are currently around 5,600 pre-payment meters serviced by Power and Water Corporation (PWC) in use throughout the NT, mostly in remote communities and town camps. However, there are a small but increasing number in use in urban areas. Manufacturing of the pre-payment token meter that has been deployed by PWC is to be discontinued from July 2011. PWC is in the process of developing a strategy for managing the phase out of the current token meter and determining which meter/s will replace it.Prepayment meter manufacturers are largely moving away from token meters to 'smarter' meters that either incorporate keypad displays with customers entering a 20 digit code to utilise credit purchased or require 'smart cards' with electronic chips to be used. Although there are clear advantages to implementing 'smart' prepayment meters from a utility point of view, there is a need understand the possible social implications of replacing tokens with new metering arrangements.A study into the use of prepayment meters in remote Northern Territory communities, in particular in relation to customer experiences and the direct or indirect social impacts of token metering, would inform PWC's long-term pre-payment metering strategy. The research findings will facilitate the design and implementation of an optimal metering solution, seeking to minimise any negative social impacts resulting from the change, including through an appropriately targeted information program.

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