VICTORIAN households and small businesses risk being charged up to $140 for a new smart meter if they switch retailers.
Rules allowing only distributors, rather than retailers, from installing or replacing meters are due to expire at the end of the year, exposing customers to potential extra costs.
The State Government fears consumers could face higher costs and safety risks unless the introduction of “metering competition” is delayed, documents reveal.
It has requested an Australian Energy Market Commission rule change to prevent Victorians from being disadvantaged.
Its submission states, among other reasons, that this would avoid “the risk that consumers may be required to replace their meter with a change of electricity retailer and face charges associated”, or the risk of higher electricity prices due to switching carriers.
The cost of the controversial smart meter program has blown out to $2.3 billion.
Victoria’s electricity distributors, CitiPower, Jemena, Powercor, SP AusNet and United Energy, have had sole responsibility for smart meters since 2009.
The Government wants the AEMC to extend this arrangement for up to three more years, until a national framework with proper processes and systems for metering competition is established.
A decision is due later this year.
In a separate letter to the AEMC, Energy Minister Nicholas Kotsiras supports plans for metering competition, but is concerned about “detrimental impacts” if it is rushed. These include “potential risks to the safety of customers” during disconnections and reconnections and “adverse impacts on customer reliability where there are meter faults”.
“If there is not an orderly transition to a competitive metering market, the benefits associated … will be compromised,” the letter states.
The Consumer Action Law Centre’s Janine Rayner said promised benefits from smart meters, such as the ability for better energy use and costs, had to be realised before another “massive change” was imposed on Victorians.