Phil had a relatively simple request. He wanted to power his home electric vehicle charger on the lower priced electricity provided by Tariff 33 in Queensland. Through a series of miscommunications and a lack of knowledge from electricians and support staff, this took almost a year to complete and ended up in the hands of the ombudsman. Apologies have now been received and all work is completed. Phil has calmed down. This morning, over coffee, he told me his story.
If you have a 32-amp charger (pulling 7kW), it must be connected to a controlled load. This is Energex policy. However, it appears that people who should have this information do not.
Phil has had an electric vehicle for over 3 and half years. 12 months ago, he upgraded to a Tesla Model Y, and at about the same time, power prices started to increase. So, in July 2022, Phil decided to have his charger connection moved from regular power (at about 24¢ per kWh) to off-peak tariff 33 or 31 (at about 13¢ per kWh).
In his research of the Energex site, he found that his charger should be linked to a controlled load (tariff 33 or 31). He rang his power provider, Alinta, and was told that they had to fit a smart meter for this. It took a month for the electrician to call. He advised that the power board had to be reconfigured to accept the new meter. The electrician submitted an EWR (Electrical Wiring Request) to Alinta. This took another month to process.
Then another electrician arrived from Alinta to fit the smart meter. He informed Phil that the maximum that the meter would accept was 30 amps. The charger ran at a max of 32 amps. He would not fit the meter. However, after a chat with his boss, he found that the meter would handle the load and apologized to Phil. The new smart meters can actually handle 40 amps.
The electrician had to now log this in as a new job. Phil waited another month for him to return and fit the meter. The electrician now rang Energex to inform them that the smart meter was fitted, so could they then attend to fit the relay. Another month.
The Energex electrician could not fit the relay because he had not received the paperwork (EWR). It appears the EWR had been sent to Alinta but not passed on to Energex — even after waiting a month. It took several phone calls to track down the paperwork. In November 2022, Alinta advised Phil that they would send the paperwork to Energex and raise a new job order. However, the new job order mistakenly identified the job as connecting both an EV charger and the hot water system. Phil has solar hot water and so has no need to connect hot water to a controlled load.
In December 2022, another Energex electrical contractor paid a visit and declared that the board had been wired incorrectly and wanted Phil to get his electrician to correct it. But, said Phil, the electrician had rung Energex before doing the work to make sure it was correct. Phil had the wiring diagram — which he delighted in showing me despite the fact that I had no idea what it all meant, squiggles and lines.
Energex now insisted that its electrician and Phil’s electrician met at the home to resolve the issues. Phil put in a complaint on the Energex website and asked to speak with someone with technical knowledge. He ended up talking to someone in the call centee who told him he would have to get “special dispensation” to get the charger connected to controlled load.
Phil politely told her where to go to get the information. After a lengthy pause while she read the material provided by her own company, she came back on and apologized — “please accept my humblest apologies, I was not aware of that.…” Ignorance is not always bliss.
This experience shows that not only electricity providers like Alinta or generators like Energex but even electricians who install chargers may not be aware of the regulations. Coming into February, the charger was still not sorted. This is when the cow excrement hit the air purifier and Phil wrote to the ombudsman with this complaint:
“I have owned an electric car for over 3.5 yrs and when I first got my EV I had a 7.2kW charger installed at home. Before installing I tried to contact Energex to get some guidance as I am aware that everyone using chargers at peak time would cause issues. But the call center would not connect me to any technical personnel.
“The charger was installed by an electrician who worked for the people who supplied the charger.
“July 2022 when power started to increase in price I thought I would revisit this area. First stop was the Energex website, doing a search for EV charging I found this:
Our Queensland Electricity Connection Manual (PDF 4.7 mb) provides rules on the connection of equipment such as wall-mounted EV chargers. A typical 7kW (~32 Amp) single-phase EV charger can’t be connected to a continuous supply (uncontrolled) tariff. It can only be connected to an economy, or controlled, tariff.
“So with this new information I contacted my supplier Alinta, who informed me that the first step was to get a smart meter fitted, this first involved getting an electrician to rewire the power board to accept the new meter.
“I discussed the requirements with my electrician he made inquiries with Energex to verify the circuit in the afore mentioned manual was the correct one to use. He carried out the job and informed Alinta that all was ready.
“The electrician for Alinta duly arrived (3–4 weeks later) informed me that it couldn’t be done as the smart meters could only switch 30amps, and the charger was a 32Amp circuit. My reply was the he had better talk to Energex and showed him the regulation. He left without fitting the meter, ringing me an hour later informing me I was right and the new meters could switch 40 amps. Another 3–4 weeks passed and he returned to fit the smart meter. On completion he rang Energex to inform them that the meter had been fitted.
“After another 3-4 weeks Energex arrived to fit a switching relay for the charging circuit, I was then informed that it couldn’t be connected as he did not have an EWR for the charger. Which has been fitted for 3 yrs.
“After chasing up the electrician who fitted the charger, he informed me that he didn’t need an EWR for fitting the charger, so back to my electrician, he informed me he did summit an EWR for the changers to the meter board, and sent to Alinta as required. After many phone calls I discovered that Alinta had not forwarded the EWR to Energex. This Energex electrician connected off peak power to my solar hot water, which I did not request.
“Having sorted this out, I thought, just before Christmas yet another Energex electrician arrived while I was out, left a form with my wife that the meter board was incorrectly wired. I contacted my electrician (who saw red) and then I wrote a similar letter about this to Energex complaints.
“I received a phone call a couple of days later, the support person tried to tell me that I would need special dispensation to have the charger fitted to off peak power, blah blah blah.When she had finished I directed her to the Energex requirement as quoted above, there was silence then a profound apology. I informed her that she was one of many that I have spoken to over the months that do not know their own regulations. Even the original electrician who fitted the charger was not aware of the requirement, and he had just fitted 20 to a unit complex.
“My electrician then contacted me to say that he and an Energex electrician would visit our place to resolve the problem.
“This has not been going on for nearly 8 months. Energex owe me at least an apology and I feel compensation for the many hours I have spent teaching their staff. I’ve tried to keep this as brief as possible, but I can assure you there have been many phone calls, and my conclusion is that Energex do not speak to their retailers and vice versa.”
Within a week, an Energex electrician arrived. Phil shared the circuit diagram, which was fine but did not allow for a hot water system. Aha – it was Alinta’s paperwork that had caused that part of the problem. I am happy to report that all is now resolved and Phil can now charge his Model Y from the controlled load. We’re still waiting to see if Alinta or Energex offer Phil a consultant’s position. I bet he could deliver great professional development.
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