MONEY-hungry power companies will hit households an extra $1.1 billion to install smart meters after winning approval for hikes on the eve of the Melbourne Cup.The decision will lead to bill increases of about $60 a year just in meter charges, and will take the gloss off any interest rate cut tipped to be announced today.
The Australian Energy Regulator has been forced to back down on efforts to limit smart meter installation costs to about $760 million, between 2012 and 2015.
The power giants appealed against the AERs draft decision in July and supplied complex price plans that showed they would have to spend big to give households the controversial new technology, which is supposed to lower bills over time.
Distributors will now be able to slug Australians an extra $360 million through meter costs. One company is allowed to charge families as much as $220 a year just to have a meter.
Consumer advocates slammed the decision to release the final determination on Cup Day eve.
St Vincent de Paul spokesman Gavin Dufty said some people could face increases of about $40 in the short term, rising over time.”Thats my best guess – what else can you do when regulators put very significant decisions out late on Cup eve?” he said. “This is a runaway train. We have got these smart-meter charges, we have got the carbon tax costs coming … households are struggling.
“State Energy Minister Michael OBrien said he was concerned about the cost impact on families.”We remain committed to trying to turn this program inside out and upside down to try to see how it can possibly deliver benefits to customers,” he said.
Australian Energy Regulator chairman Andrew Reeves said his staff had done everything possible to try to protect consumers.
He said the final decision on pricing was less than the $1.24 billion budget initially requested by companies. Mr Reeves said the AER had to deliver the decision on smart meter costs by the end of October and it was disappointing it couldnt be made before Cup eve. “The work had to be done, and we couldnt release the decision before the market closed.
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