It is perhaps the biggest single public policy failure in the energy sector of the past decade – mandated smart meters which are being introduced in Victoria.
With the cost of the roll-out now estimated at more than $2 billion – more than twice the initial estimated cost – it has added another lucrative profit source to the activities of the power distributors.
And the backlash has been so intense that the Australian Energy Markets Commission omitted any reference to “smart meters” in its 192-page report released yesterday. The report outlines a series of measures to overhaul the electricity market by boosting so-called demand-side participation – that is, measures to encourage lower demand at times of peak electricity prices.
The report is littered with the term “better metering” and even “interval metering” as a means of introducing “more innovative pricing options” to the electricity market, to cut the need for a new round of capital spending.
The issue of smart meters has become so toxic politically that the NSW government, for example, refuses to countenance a mandated roll-out, fearful of a tabloid newspaper-generated backlash, such as occurred in Victoria, even though the federal government is threatening penalties if it doesn’t go down this path.
And as Victoria has found, there has been no advantage in being the “first mover” in introducing smart meters, since technology has moved on since it launched this program several years ago now, especially since many so-called smart meter functions are little more than a smartphone app these days – especially with the national broadband roll-out.
The power industry knows it can save billions of dollars in spending by cutting demand during the peak usage times of early morning and the evenings, but for most households the amount of money likely to be saved is so limited that it is barely worth the effort.
Rather, the savings are more readily demonstrated for larger commercial and industrial users, which should be the focus of much of the efforts to manipulate power demand.Brian Robins, Sydney Morning Herald