Smart power meters 'to hit poor'  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Australian has a look at some of the FUD being generated about smart meters, with one criticism being that they hit poor people who are at home during the day harder than average - Smart power meters 'to hit poor'. Given that most power prices are regulated still this would be easy enough to address, either via the regulatory or tax systems (of course, you'd probably want market driven prices for power to make smart meters really useful, which points to the tax system for making this "fairer").

HOUSEHOLDS that rely on daytime airconditioning, cooking and heating will be hit with higher power bills. This will occur as hi-tech "smart meters" are rolled out nationally.

Victorians are being slugged an average of $68 a year just for the remote digital meters to be installed -- even though barely 10 per cent of households have them.

Consumers are being billed upfront for the rollout to 2.5 million households, which is not due for completion before the end of 2013.

Other states and territories are trialling the devices, which send real-time readings to power companies every half-hour.

Utilities can then tailor their bills, to charge more for electricity used at peak times of demand during the day, and less at nights and weekends.

Victoria has stalled the new pricing system for at least nine months, after complaints from welfare and consumer groups that it would punish low-income families and pensioners.

The introduction of the smart meters comes in the wake of Australians' electricity bills rising 18.2 per cent last financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with a typical bill going up by as much as 27 per cent to $2012 in Victoria and 12 per cent to $2278 for rural NSW residents.

The Age has a look at some of the deficiencies with the Victorian smart meter rollout - Smart meters look dumb for users.
SMART meters, the new technology pushing up Victorian power bills, will provide little benefit to customers over the next five years, as the big electricity companies reap hundreds of millions of dollars from the rollout, a Sunday Age investigation has revealed.

Findings by the Australian Energy Regulator have undermined the state government's position on smart meters - which will be fitted to every Victorian home by the end of 2013 - and the most recent cost-benefit analysis shows the implementation will deliver $1.5 billion in cost savings to power companies over 20 years and few real benefits to customers.

This comes as Victorians face escalating bills driven by smart meters. Customers pay up front, regardless of whether they have a smart meter. This year the cost was $68, next year $72, and the Auditor-General warned that costs could climb higher.
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Power companies will recover the cost of installing and operating meters through bills until 2028. So far, 250,000 meters have been installed.

Smart meters replace the old ''spinning disk'', manually read meters measuring electricity use. The new meters have two-way remote communication with the power company, sending energy use data 48 times a day. They will be able to connect and disconnect homes with the touch of a button. Retiring energy minister Peter Batchelor says the $1.6 billion rollout is like going from ''telegrams to email''.

Even the government's critics support the concept of smart meters but worry that, in leading the nation, Victoria has gone too far, too fast. The program, dubbed by the opposition as the ''myki of metering'', has doubled in price.

When it committed to a universal implementation, the Brumby government promised the meters would help ''tackle climate change'' and allow householders to manage energy and reduce power costs.

The customer benefits, however, now appear shaky. The meters tell customers virtually nothing about their energy use. Households need an ''in-home display'' or web-based program to see energy use and power charges. There is no plan about who - the retailer or the householder - pays for this technology in the program's next stage.

The government has also put a moratorium on a big benefit of smart meters: time-of-use tariffs. These allow people to shift energy use to cheaper times of the day.

The tariffs have been put on hold, possibly until the end of 2011, after the government accepted it had not considered disadvantaged groups and stay-at-home families who cannot easily shift power use and could be penalised by up to $200 a year.


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