VICTORIANS have shunned “flexible” electricity price plans that were spruiked as a smart meter benefit.
Just 8100 customers — fewer than 1 per cent — have adopted the deals that were introduced more than two years ago, latest figures reveal.
Retailers had said the voluntary time-of-use tariffs could save some households $150 a year.
Customers are rewarded for using power late at night, early in the morning and on weekends, and pay a premium at weekday peak times.
Vinnies energy expert Gavin Dufty said households had a right to feel disappointed with smart meters, with most yet to see a “tangible benefit” from the $2.2 billion rollout.
“All we see is ever increasing complicated pay-on-time discounts, with very few companies offering pricing and services that give customers more control of their bills,” Mr Dufty said.
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said: “Victorians can maximise the benefits of solar panels and other energy technologies via their smart meters, connections are cheaper, and faults are detected more quickly”.
The dismal flexible tariff take-up comes as the Government defends letting customers “opt in” rather than “opt out” of planned “cost reflective” electricity distribution demand charges phased in from next year.
“We are giving Victorian households, not electricity companies, the choice about what pricing arrangements are right for them,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
Victorian distributors responding to an Australian Energy Market Commission rule have proposed monthly demand tariffs based on maximum half-hour use during 3pm-9pm weekdays, with highest rates in summer.
Such pricing aims to encourage appliance use outside peak demand, and make those draining the network most pay their “fair share”.
It is designed to reduce investment needed for grid upgrades, therefore lowering bills on average.
But Ms D’Ambrosio said many families would be worse off if forced onto changes.
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood has described the Government’s stance as a “setback for electricity tariff reform”.
But Consumer Action Law Centre chief Gerard Brody said: “Let’s hope the opt-in model provides the incentive to our energy suppliers to better communicate the benefits of tariff changes to the community”.
Karen Collier, via Herald Sun