Smart meter industry left disappointed by Brazil ruling

Brazil’s energy regulator has stunned the industry by announcing that smart meters will be installed at existing premises only if customers request them.

The National Agency of Electrical Energy (ANEEL) has given suppliers 18 months to offer consumers electronic meters under two separate schemes. Suppliers must install meters at no cost if consumers opt simply for time-of-usage tariffs, but can charge installation fees if customers choose plans that provide specific details about the service.

Brazil’s energy regulator has stunned the industry by announcing that smart meters will be installed at existing premises only if customers request them.

The National Agency of Electrical Energy (ANEEL) has given suppliers 18 months to offer consumers electronic meters under two separate schemes. Suppliers must install meters at no cost if consumers opt simply for time-of-usage tariffs, but can charge installation fees if customers choose plans that provide specific details about the service.

In both cases, however, consumers have to request the installation. Makers of smart meters had expected the regulator to force utilities to replace Brazil’s 65 million meters with smart meters by 2020, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Instead, utilities will have to install smart meters only at new premises.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons spending on smart meter installations in Brazil will amount to approximately $670 million a year from 2014, with utilities installing about 4.5 million meters between 2014 and 2017.

“It would have been better if it was mandatory to replace all meters,” said Maria Gabriela da Rocha Oliveira, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in an article published on Bloomberg’s website.

Jesse Berst, chief analyst for Smart Grid News.com, also takes a dim view of the ruling, writing that “virtually all the benefits named are those that matter to utilities, not to end users”.

According to André Pepitone da Nobrega, a director with ANEEL, the main reasons for deploying smart grids in Brazil are to improve the quality of low-voltage services, reduce losses in the power supply and trim operating costs.

Berst reckons Brazil will be lucky to replace even half its meters with smart meters under the new regulations. “Anecdotally, Brazilian utilities lose 10–30% of their power to theft. And ANEEL thinks that Brazilian consumers will volunteer for new meters that will be able to detect that theft?”

ANEEL’s decision brings to an end a discussion and public consultation on smart meters that began in October 2010.