Smart meter similar to what Intel is trialling with utility companies such as Energy Australia, are set to be used as intelligence gathering tools aimed at lifting household electricity charges.
Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor yesterday revealed that 270,000 smart meters had been installed in Victoria at a cost of $68 dollars a year to households. Additional metres will be rolled out to 2.5 million households during the next 3 years with consumers billed up front for their installation.
He said “time of use” pricing would let consumers “choose deals that better suit their needs”. However he failed to reveal that utility companies are using the metres to gather intelligence so that they can increase charges during peak periods.
Consumers are being billed upfront for the rollout to 2.5 million households, which is not due for completion before the end of 2013.
The Australian newspaper said that the introduction of smart meters comes in the wake of Australians’ electricity bills rising 18.2 per cent in the last financial year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently said that a typical household electricity bill could go up by as much as 27 per cent to $2012 in Victoria and 12 per cent to $2278 for rural NSW residents.
The new Intel metres, which incorporate an Atom processor, send real-time readings to power companies every half-hour, this provides intelligence to the utility company who in turn are now looking to introduce new charges for electricity used at peak times of demand and less at nights and weekends.
The Australian reports that preliminary advice, from officials advising the Ministerial Council on Energy, warns that smart meters could create hardship for some customers.
“Half-hourly interval data recording enables distributors to charge time-reflective network pricing,” the officials state.
“This . . . can be passed through by retailers, allowing customers to be charged a higher rate during times of peak demand on electricity supply infrastructure because of high consumption or network constraint.
“Some customers without the flexibility to respond to time-related tariffs may consequently face an increase in their cost of electricity that may create or worsen a hardship situation.”
The officials cite a report by Energy Market Consulting, which calculated that 50 per cent of households would be worse off under smart-meter pricing.
In other moves the nation’s biggest energy retailer, AGL Energy, has applied to South Australia’s pricing regulator to increase power bills by $7.58 per megawatt hour next year.
The energy Companies are blaming the government’s recent solar scheme that incentivises households to invest in alternate energy sources.
The Australian claims that the development will put further pressure on the Gillard government over its handling of climate change policy, with warnings that power prices are surging because of the extension of “very expensive” renewables and state-based schemes in the absence of a carbon price.
Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Brad Page said that he was concerned that cost rises were inflated by state-based incentives such as the NSW government’s solar bonus that pays owners 60c per kilowatt hour for all the electricity they generate even if they use it themselves.
By contrast, power costs about 5c per kilowatt hour to produce, using coal.
In Queensland, AGL, Origin Energy, Energy Australia and Integral Energy have told the state pricing regulator that costs associated with the household-level scheme would have to be passed on to customers next year.