POWER distributors will reap an extra $20 million from smart meter customers next year after yet another budget blowout.
The hike, which is over and above costs already approved, will add up to $20 to the annual charge householders with the controversial devices must pay.
The Baillieu Government blamed its predecessor for the problem, vowing it would be tougher for electricity giants to slug customers from now on.
St Vincent de Paul Society manager of policy and research Gavin Dufty said it was time customers saw benefits in the face of spiralling smart meter charges.
“Enough is enough,” Mr Dufty said.
“It’s up to the industry and Government to start handing back the benefits. Victorian households are paying for this infrastructure and almost four years in it’s just been costs.”
Customers in CitiPower’s distribution area will be hardest hit, with the annual meter charge rising 18.1 per cent to $127 excluding GST.
Powercor’s fee rises $16, SP AusNet’s about $8 and United Energy’s only $1. Jemena’s fee is unchanged.
Rachel Obradovic, spokeswoman for Energy Minister Michael O’Brien, said the Australian Energy Regulator was obliged to automatically approve the hikes because they traced back to when the former Labor government allowed rises of up to 20 per cent to avoid scrutiny.
The threshold has since been abolished.
“This is the last time these rules will apply,” Ms Obradovic said.
“Labor’s energy spokesperson should apologise to Victorian energy customers.”
But Opposition energy spokeswoman Lily D’Ambrosio said the minister had endorsed the smart meter program and would have known the price hike was coming.
“Instead of looking at reducing cost pressures this Government is again playing politics,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Distributors argued they needed more money because of higher-than-expected information technology, communications and traditional meter costs.
Meanwhile, gas distributor Envestra threatened to defer its proposed investment program in Victoria over a disagreement with the industry regulator.