February 25, 2011
The Alternative Technology Association (ATA) is deeply concerned by the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) recent approval of charges between $5.13 and $39.10 for new smart meter services in Victoria.
“Energy consumers will be charged too much for services that are meant to be automated by smart meters. We accept that it will take some time for energy businesses to get their new systems in order, but in the meantime this is like charging $5 to send a text message,” says Craig Memery, ATA’s Energy Policy Advocate.
The new services, which smart meters are meant to provide for little or no charge, include
- remote disconnection (for example, when moving out of a house)
- remote reconnection (for example, when moving into a house)
- remote meter reconfiguration (for example when installing solar panels)
“According to their public report, the regulator’s own advisor felt that some of the charges proposed by the businesses are too high, but recommended they be approved anyway. The regulator seems to have accepted this advice without question. Something is wrong with this picture.” Said Mr Memery.
The new service charges are locked in until 2013 to give the energy businesses time to get their systems in order. But while the bottom line of the businesses is protected, by 2013 the average Victorian household will have spent more than $200 in increased service charges to fund the smart meter rollout. (Since January 2010 smart meter charges have been on the energy bills of all Victorians)
“The entire case for smart meters is based on the idea that the benefits for consumers are greater than the cost. Now the cost to consumers have been mounting at a frightening rate, but at the same time the benefits aren’t filtering through.” Said Mr. Memery.
The ATA supports the Victorian Government’s commitment to reappraising the roll-out of smart meters, and urges the government to prioritise the delivery of the intended benefits of smart meters to the consumers who are paying for them.
“The Victorian Energy Minister, Michael O’Brien, needs to take control of this situation,” Mr Memery said.
“The theme of Victoria’s smart meter rollout isn’t just one of consumers being made to take a back seat – they’re being made to get out and push the bus, while businesses to get a free ride.”
Craig Memery, Alternative Technology Association Energy Policy Advocate : 0412 223 203 or (03) 9631 5418