Keep buying of electricity simple

It is odd that only 30 per cent of eligible consumers have switched from the current incumbent SP Group to the electricity retailers (1 in 3 eligible consumers switches to electricity retailer; Dec 30, 2018).

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) expects this take-up rate to stay the same as the roll-out stretches across the island.

For a scheme that is touted to reduce consumers' electricity bills, this surely cannot be right; one expects the take-up rate to be more than 50 per cent as a minimum. This could mean consumers either are indifferent, or cannot understand or see the purpose of the scheme.

A pertinent question is: What value do the 13 electricity retailers bring to the table, especially as they do not produce electricity and are also not responsible for the reliability and performance of the electricity supply?

With 13 retailers, it would be logical to conclude that operating, administration and marketing costs would actually increase and the burden is going to fall on the consumers.

In a liberalised market, certainly large organisations including the larger estates will seek group discount rates, resulting in multi-tier rates with the smaller estates or individuals paying top-tier rates.

Let's keep the buying of electricity, a non-differentiated and essential product, simple.

Consumers want a simple system without having to spend much time trying to search for the "best rate".

In this Internet age, I reckon what consumers want is real-time monitoring of their electricity usage. Perhaps EMA could look into the replacement of the electricity meters that have remained the same for ages.

With real-time metering, we eliminate the need for a person to read the meter and, more importantly, the massive data collected (down to the individual households) will be a treasure trove for economic and other applications.

Hoe Lye Soon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2019, with the headline 'Keep buying of electricity simple'. Print Edition | Subscribe