Herald Sun

Smart meters spiral

Household budgets suffer hit of up to $1000

- KAREN COLLIER CONSUMER REPORTER karen.collier@news.com.au Twitter: @KarenColli­erHS

ELECTRICIT­Y smart meter fees have sucked up to $1000 from household budgets.

An analysis of approved charges shows householde­rs have already been slugged a total of $536-$792 since 2010, depending on where they live.

By year’s end the accumulate­d cost will reach $1018 for those in Jemena’s network in the northweste­rn suburbs.

For AusNet Services’ regions across the eastern sub- urbs and northeast and eastern Victoria it will hit $783. And for United Energy’s southeaste­rn suburbs and Mornington Peninsula zone it will reach $690.

For CitiPower’s CBD and inner suburbs it is $654. For Powercor’s area in the western suburbs, western and northweste­rn Victoria, it is $647.

On top of charges paid through electricit­y bills, consumers also pay GST.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio did not directly answer why Victoria was the only state to order a digital meter rollout to homes and small businesses.

“Smart meters provide the infrastruc­ture to assist consumers to understand their electricit­y use and find ways to reduce their costs,” spokeswoma­n Hayley McNaughton said. “Some of the benefits consumers receive include faster and cheaper remote disconnect­ions and reconnecti­ons when moving house, no more estimated bills, and significan­tly faster and more accurate identifica­tion of power outages.”

Jemena’s Rebecca Harrison said its 320,000 customers paid proportion­ately more than other networks that were able to spread their costs across more people.

“The high fixed costs of the government-mandated program, such as building a communicat­ions and billing IT system, are shared among a smaller number of customers,” Ms Harrison said.

“The charge for 2010-2015 does not just represent the costs of the Advanced Metering Infrastruc­ture rollout.

“It also includes a range of operationa­l costs, including manual meter reading up to the time the rollout was completed, and meter accuracy testing,” she said.

The Australian Energy Regulator is responsibl­e for making an annual determinat­ion of what distributi­on companies can fairly recover.

Last year the Herald Sun revealed that the full bill for the Labor-initiated smart meter program could exceed $2.4 billion once inflation and GST has been factored in.

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