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Smart Meters.  

 
 
 


 VICTORIANS will pay at least double - and in some cases triple - the price for new electricity meters from next year, even before many customers have them installed.

Until now, Victorians have paid about $35 to $45 a year for meters and the costs of servicing them. But from next year, as the new smart meters come into effect, customers will pay more to distributors who provide the power lines and poles. The charges will increase again the following year.

Australian Energy Regulator documents show large differences between the charges levied by various energy distributors. In 2011, some customers will pay $130 for the service, while others will pay $92. In some cases, the distributors asked for bigger price increases than what was approved (see table).

Distributors say that higher costs are justified because of the benefits of smart meters. These include lower costs from remote meter reading, remote connection and disconnection, more efficient outage detection and improved billing accuracy.

Yet research from the St Vincent De Paul Society shows that households face an average annual rise of $263 in electricity bills because of smart meters and new billing systems that abandon flat-rate electricity supply. The federal carbon pollution reduction scheme is expected to add an extra $200. The smart meter introduction, which has just started, will continue until 2013, covering the state's 2.6 million households and 300,000 small businesses.

Distributors will install meters progressively. The first meters are being placed in homes in Melbourne's northern suburbs by Jemena. United Energy, which services households from the Mornington Peninsula to the inner east, has begun installing meters as part of a joint program with Jemena.

Powercor (from Werribee to the South Australian border) and CitiPower (the inner city) will begin installing in October. SP Ausnet will start installing meters in Melbourne's outer east to the NSW border in January. It is not known how much consumers will pay in 2012 and 2013.

Regulator chairman Steve Edwell said he expected Victorians would eventually see the benefits of smart meters including lower prices but that might not happen for five years.

''''The reality is that under the arrangements, they are paying for the costs of the meters, in some cases before they get the meter and certainly before the cost savings filter through, but eventually there will be cost savings,'' Mr Edwell said.

Under an Order in Council passed by the Victorian Government last year, distributors can recover up to 120 per cent of their costs, although that figure would first have to be approved by the energy regulator. A St Vincent De Paul Society report has also expressed concern about the timing of the introduction, with less than a quarter of customers having the meters installed before June 30, 2011. ''This protracted roll-out schedule means that customers will commence paying for the metering infrastructure well in advance of any real benefits being delivered,'' the report says.

St Vincent De Paul Society manager of policy and research Gavin Dufty said the Victorian Government needed to bring in rules requiring the energy regulator to review the benefits each year and make sure they were delivered to the public.

A spokeswoman for the Acting Energy and Resources Minister, Joe Helper, said: ''Analysis shows the benefits of smart meters will outweigh the costs. Smart meters will provide Victorians a tool to manage their energy use and therefore reduce their electricity bill.''

 

What smart meters will cost you

Supplier 2010 2011

CitiPower $104.79 $113

Jemena $67.79 $130.52

Powercor $96.67 $111.48

SP Ausnet $75.88 $94.23

United Energy $71.80 $92.12

SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN ENERGY REGULATOR

Smart Meter Questions And Answers

Can I get the new smart meter put in a different location to the current meter?
A qualified meter installer will install your smart meter in the same location as your previous meter. When your smart meter is first installed, the meter installer will not install it in a different location. If you would like to have your smart meter moved to another location following its installation, you need to contact a Registered Electrical Contractor who will advise you of the costs involved to relocate your meter.

When will all Victorians get new smart meters?
The smart meter rollout program will progressively run from late 2009 to the end of 2013. You will be advised directly by your electricity distributor when the new smart meters are to be installed in your area.

What is the process when a new smart meter is installed?
Once your area is selected for the smart meter installation, you will receive introductory letters from the Victorian Government and your electricity distributor about the smart meter replacement program. Your electricity distributor will then advise you when the installation will take place � providing a 10 day period within which it will occur.

During the installation a qualified meter installer will remove your old meter and replace it with a new smart meter. The installation of your smart meter will require a short power interruption of approximately 30 to 60 minutes. Once installed, you will receive instructions on how to read your new smart meter.

How will I know if my meter's been replaced with a new smart meter?
Before the smart meter installation occurs, the qualified meter installer appointed by your electricity distribution business, will knock on your door to inform you that the installation is about to occur. In normal circumstances however, there is no need for you to be present.

Once the meter installation is complete, the meter installer will leave information at your premises to advise you that the meter installation is complete and provide details on how to read your new smart meter.

Will they knock on my door before they start the work?
Yes. Prior to beginning the meter installation, the meter installer will advise that the works are about to begin. You will also be advised when the meter installation is complete.

Will my electricity be interrupted during the smart meter installation, and if so, for how long?
Yes. As with any meter replacement, the installation of your smart meter will require a short power interruption of approximately 30 to 60 minutes If there are any unusual circumstances and the interruption takes longer, you will be advised. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

After the power interruption you will need to reset your digital clocks and other electronic devices.

Do I need to be home for the smart meter installation?
You do not have to be home when the smart meter is installed at your property. Your electricity distribution business will require clear and safe access to your meter box to complete the smart meter installation.
If your meter is not freely accessible please contact your electricity distribution business.

I am at work all day. How will you get access to my meter?
You do not have to be home when the smart meter is installed at your property. Your electricity distribution business will require clear and safe access to your meter box to complete the smart meter installation.
If your meter is not freely accessible please contact your electricity distribution business.

Can I book an appointment for installation?
No, however if the scheduled installation 10 day period is not convenient, please contact your electricity distribution business.

Is it possible to have an installation after hours or on weekends?
No, however the installation will be done with little inconvenience to you.

What happens if my property is damaged in any way when the meter is being installed?
If any damage occurs please contact your electricity distribution business to report it. It will be investigated and resolved as quickly as possible.

What do I do if I cannot resolve a complaint with the electricity retailer or electricity distributor?
If the matter cannot be resolved with the electricity distribution business then you can contact the Energy and Water Ombudsmen (Victoria) (EWOV). Visit www.ewov.com.au or call 1800 500 509.

What happens if someone on my property is on life support?
If you have completed and lodged the necessary forms with your electricity retailer, they will have informed your electricity distribution business of your life support status. If you are unsure, please contact your electricity retailer as soon as possible.

All customers will be given a notice period of at least four business days prior to the smart meter installation occurring via the meter exchange notice letter. Meter installers will knock on your door and show identification before commencing the meter exchange to inform you that the meter exchange is about to occur.

What do I do if there is a problem with either the smart meter or my electricity supply after the smart meter is installed?
After the smart meter has been installed, your local electricity distribution business will leave information about how to read the smart meter and provide details regarding who to contact if you have any problems.

Will there be any other visits after the initial installation?
The electricity distribution business is responsible for ensuring the quality, reliability and performance of the smart meter and may need additional visits to check the meter from time to time, though this is not expected to occur often.

My next door neighbour/friend has not received notification of the smart meter exchange, why did I get one?
Your neighbour/friend may not yet be scheduled to have a smart meter installed at their property. The smart meter rollout will progressively run from late 2009 to the end of 2013.

Who is going to install the smart meters?
Your local electricity distributor, or a suitably qualified meter installer appointed by them, will be installing your smart meter. Meter installers will have photo ID stating that the person is a contractor representing your electricity distributor. This ID will have a telephone number that can be contacted to verify that the installer is an authorised representative.