More Smart Meter Costs and Problems

Smart meter installation comes with a hefty cost premium if you live in Victoria. Other states are likely to follow suit. But do you actually own your smart meter?

In my previous post on smart meters in Victoria and NSW I made the following comment when referring to smart meter ownership:

I seriously doubt whether residents have any right to their meter.

This prompted a few concerned comments, so I did some more research.

You do not own your smart meter

Sorry to say it but I can confirm what I expected: you do not own your meter. Although most websites are shying away from saying this, the energy retailers do acknowledge it. For example, in Australia Power & Gas's information sheet on smart meters they quite clearly state the following:

Smart meter ownership Victoria 

How much will smart meters cost?

There is some good news. Just yesterday the Australian Energy Regulator released it's 'draft determination on Victorian smart meter costs and charges.'

The determination falls short of the large fee increases requested by the network providers. But, this still means that customers will pay about $100 per year for the smart meters which they do not own.

If implemented, the draft determination will result in the following annual charges in the 2011-15 period. These costs are for the average small customer with a single phase / single element meter (rounded to nearest dollar).

Smart meter costs per year, by network area

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
SP AusNet $94 $101 $109 $117 $126
United Energy Distribution $92 $100 $108 $116 $126
Jemena Electricity Networks $137 $156 $160 $162 $165
Citipower $91 $93 $95 $97 $99
Powercor $95 $93 $94 $95 $96

What about the data from smart meters?

The main benefit of smart meters is that new tariffs will be introduced. These will allow you to save money, depending on what time of the day you use electricity.

In most cases households should be able to fully recover the above increases by making some minor usage changes around the home (like switching off standby with an EcoSwitch or upgrading to MR16 LED lighting)

Another potential benefit is that smart meters record usage information every 30 minutes or less. This data is very useful to assess your household's energy consumption (and make further improvements). As a customer, you should be able to request this data. Not surprisingly in this saga, even that is in doubt. One commentator recently noted:

Currently there [are] significant regulatory barriers around allowing customers to access their own data.

I'm not defending smart meters or the above charges

In my previous post I was accused of doing a 'snow job' for the energy utilities. I have no incentive to do that. All I'm trying to do if put some facts on the table in this strangely emotive debate.

The electricity network companies and power generators will benefit from installing smart meters. So, why customers are being forced to pay in full for this change, I am not quite sure.

- Ryan McCarthy

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