After a smart meter was installed on her house ‘Joan’ experienced repeated surges on the house’s wiring whenever she boiled the electric kettle. This went on for over a year with no attempt by her power distributor to fix the situation. Then one morning, a power distributor representative arrived at her door and said that they were doing a street check. Shortly after, they told Joan they need to turn off her house’s electricity for 15 minutes to conduct further tests. 5 minutes later, they told Joan that she has to pay for an electrician to repair her mains and they will not restore the power until she does so.
Amidst howls of protest that she was not forewarned that she would have her electricity disconnected and that there had been no problems with her household wiring until the smart meter was installed, the power distributor workers expected Joan to be grateful that they had just prevented her house from burning down. Never mind that it could have burned down any time in the past year or so.
Joan was left without any electricity at all for more than 24 hours. Plus she was left with a hefty electrician’s bill for work apparently made necessary by the installation of a smart meter. And meanwhile, the power distributor had held its hand out for a $362 after hours call out fee, which Joan refused to pay.
Who should pay for these extra smart meter infrastructure costs? Everyone of us is already paying for the smart meter that the power distributors get to claim that they own. Why should some people be required to pay thousands of dollars in order to enable their house’s wiring and mains to cope with a meter that places significantly more stress upon the wiring than an analogue meter does?
The National Smart Meter Infrastructure Report (4 Feb, 2013) reported on the rollout of smart meters across Australia. While comparing the Victorian mandated rollout with the more voluntary rollout of other states, the report says on page 9-114:
9.3.2 Existing Infrastructure
One of the issues that smart meter deployments face is that they can highlight problems with wiring/ switchboards etc on the customer side of the connection. This is normally the responsibility for the customer to maintain. However, where the only reason that this cost has emerged is the rollout of smart meters it is difficult to impose the cost on customers. This is more of an issue for a mandatory programme as voluntary programmes can skip some customers with wiring problems and meters required for Solar may be able to require customers to fix the infrastructure.