Households forced to pay for the multibillion-dollar rollout of smart meters may never see their promised benefits, according to a scathing report by Victoria’s Auditor-General.
The report lashes the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources for failing to track properly the multibillion-dollar costs associated with the program, preferring instead to crow about its benefits out of context.
It says the largest benefit in the estimated life of the program — $1.4 billion out of $3.2 billion — could be attributed to avoiding costs such as installing and manually checking older meters. These are savings that flow primarily to electricity distributors, rather than consumers, who have instead seen bills climb higher and higher.
“When the rollout was announced, the benefits were promoted widely. However, when the government reviewed the program in 2011 it was clear there would be no overall benefit to consumers, but instead a likely cost of $319 million,” the Auditor-General’s report said.
The report says costs are likely to go beyond that figure, and that, even in ideal conditions, consumers will only receive about 80 per cent of the benefits that have been identified.
“The reality of the smart meter rollout is that the state approved a program, many of the costs of which it could not directly control, nor drive many of the benefits ascribed to it,” the report says.
“Nevertheless, the rollout is now complete and Victoria has infrastructure in place that might lead to future innovation and benefits to consumers. Government’s role must now be to help consumers to get the most out of what they have paid for,” it said.
Anti-smart meter campaigner Sonja Rutherford, of Broadmeadows, is one of thousands around the state who has refused the smart meter upgrade. She says her meter has been running for 45 years without incident.
“The so-called benefits the government keep repeating — none of that has come to fruition that I know of,” Ms Rutherford said.
She said smart meters, coupled with internet-connected appliances, would allow companies to cut off power to particular appliances at their whim. Up to 75,000 people kept “locked box” meters, refusing the upgrade, she said. A meter reader still comes to her house.
“I don’t know what the advantage is except that they can rake in money for the cost of the rollout,” she said.
Marc Moncrief, via: The Age