01.Not so smart meters
Mandatory installation of smart meters has begun in Victoria and they’re currently being trialled in some homes in NSW and Queensland. However their benefit to consumers in reducing electricity bills is still in question.
The federal government claims that the new smart meters in Victoria — also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) — allow customers to get an accurate picture of their electricity usage every 30 minutes, helping them to reduce their bills through greater visibility of usage patterns. This information is also fed back to the energy distributors and retailers.
The infrastructure costs of smart meters are passed on to all consumers. With AMI, metering charges for Victorians will increase by an average of $53 a year, with new metering charges ranging between $70 and $135 annually. The information is fed back to the energy distributors and retailers who use the data to charge consumers time-of-use price rates, which may or may not change usage patterns. Time-of-use pricing is different from traditional peak and off-peak rates charging and generally tends to be more expensive at times of the day when electricity is in demand. Complaints about the meters will not be handled by energy retailers (they send your electricity bills) as it’s the energy distributors who are manage the meters. So consumers will have to call their energy distributors instead.
Trials of smart meters in NSW showed at best a 5% reduction in bills for consumers who were able to shift their usage from “peak” to “off-peak times”. But many consumers who are at home during the day – such as pensioners and work-from-home parents – may not be able to shift usage or reduce consumption.
Operations manager of utilities comparison-and-switch company CHOICE Switch, Janey Paterson says: “The smart meters tell you your usage but they don’t tell you what to do to reduce your bills. Shifting your usage by clock-watching is not going to do so. Being energy efficient and choosing the right plan with the right provider will.”
The simplest thing you can do to reduce your electricity bills is switch off your electrical appliances at the wall when you don’t need to use them.