New electricity meters – late, dumb and expensive

The so-called “smart meters” announced by the Brumby Government today are behind schedule, will lack vital features, and will be expensive for consumers, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Robert Clark said today.

The smart meter roll-out will not include most of the features customers need to manage their power use and greenhouse emissions, or to take advantage of savings offered by retailers to customers who reduce power use at times of peak prices.

Functions that will not be provided include:
• in-home display of information
• customer supply monitoring
• inter-operability with other devices
• remote load management
• connection to home area network.
(Source: Letter dated 6 September 2008 from Minister for Energy and Resources, Peter Batchelor, to Australian Energy Market Commission – see www.aemc.gov.au.)

Some of these functions were not included in the national minimum standard announced last year and have been omitted entirely from the new meters. Other functions will not become available unless and until determined by a National Stakeholder Steering Committee.

“These omissions show that the main aim of the meters announced by the government is not to help customers manage their electricity use or emissions, but to allow power companies to read meters and to connect and disconnect power supply remotely,” Mr Clark said.

“However, even the supply of meter data to retailers on a daily basis will not start until December 2012.

“Despite their limited benefits, consumers are still being forced to pay for these meters through their power bills. The Victorian government has approved the inclusion of a charge for the meters as part of the tariff charged by electricity distribution companies, but it has not disclosed what the charge is. Industry estimates range from $22 a year per customer to around $100 a year,” Mr Clark said.

The Essential Services Commission began investigating smart meter roll-out in 2001, and announced in July 2004 that deployment by power companies would be mandatory. Deployment for consumers with off-peak metering was supposed to start in 2006. This was later delayed until 2008, and now will not commence until mid-2009.