VICTORIA’s electricity smart meter rollout has been linked to a rise in disconnections.
And fees to pay for the rollout have also pushed up power prices, putting a strain on low-income households, a state inquiry has been told.
Annual disconnections over unpaid bills have more than doubled in five years. Last financial year, 34,448 residential customers were cut off.
The Consumer Action Law Centre has recommended distributors be forced to check on householders and assess their circumstances before acting.
“We are particularly concerned … there is the potential for households to be disconnected in greater numbers,” senior energy policy officer Janine Rayner said.
Retailer Simply Energy has told an Essential Services Commission review of financial hardship arrangements that smart meters were one of the reasons for more cut-offs.
The technology can be used to pull the plug remotely, and “this alone will have increased disconnection rates over the last two years or so”.
Simply Energy noted it had also experienced a “significant rise” in those applying to hardship programs or failing to pay bills because of rising prices.
Charges beyond retailers’ control — including the cost of the smart meter rollout — were among the reasons.
Karen Collier, via Herald Sun (Page 2, 18 June 2015)