VICTORIANS will be slugged smart meter fees of up to $226 on their electricity bills next year.
The Australian Energy Regulator has approved charges for 2015 of $109.40 to $226.30, plus GST, for the most common type of smart meter, depending on where consumers live.
Hundreds of thousands of households will be hit with fees up to 28 per cent higher than this year’s, after some companies blew their budgets.
Other households will get slight discounts on the fees.
The annual fee ruling comes as the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office investigates whether consumers are getting a fair deal under the system.
Homes in Melbourne’s northwest and eastern suburbs, and Victoria’s northeast and east, face the biggest sting next year.
“It’s another blow to the hip pocket,” said Gavin Dufty, an energy expert from the St Vincent de Paul Society. “We have paid a huge amount for these meters and it’s time we saw some benefits.”
The latest financial fallout from the controversial digital device rollout could add up to $50 million more to the total cost of the project, the Herald Sun understands.
The full smart meter bill for homes and small businesses could exceed $2.4 billion, once inflation and the GST is factored in.
Power company Jemena’s charge for next year is $226.30, up 17 per cent on last year. AusNet Service’s charge is $205.50, up 28 per cent, and United Energy’s charge is $154.50, or 9 per cent more.
CitiPower’s $115.90 fee is down 60c on last year, and Powercor’s $109.40 charge is 5 per cent lower.
The regulator gave the green light to a combined $111.4 million in excess expenditure claims for distribution companies AusNet Services, United Energy and Jemena after they blew last year’s budgets.
However, the regulator rejected a further $38.1 million cash grab as “inefficient”.
Smart meters are read remotely rather than manually, and allow consumers to opt to be charged different rates for use at different times of day.
Retailers have said they could allow some customers to slash annual power bills by hundreds of dollars.
The Auditor-General’s Office plans to table an updated report on the smart meter project next June.
“As the … rollout is effectively complete, it is timely to undertake the audit to assess the extent to which deficiencies in the AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) program have been addressed, and whether benefits for consumers are being realised,” it said.
The overspending companies blamed stalled installations caused by the former Liberal government’s project review, public resistance to the meters’ introduction, shortages of installers forcing up wages, and the delayed introduction of time-of-use electricity tariffs.
While Jemena and United overspent last year, their expenditure in earlier years was lower than expected.
The rollout, ordered by Labor and continued by the Coalition, has been plagued by cost overruns and safety and privacy concerns. Victorians have been paying annual smart meter fees since 2010.
Karen Collier, Herald Sun