A rapid smart meter rollout in NSW and the Greens support it!

A rapid smart meter rollout in NSW and the Greens support it!

I was forwarded a letter today from New South Wales energy provider AGL announcing a digital meter (smart) roll-out to all its customers. AGL has given less than two weeks notice for people to respond if they do not want a smart meter upgrade.
Quoting from the AGL brochure:

“The technology in your electricity meter is over 100 years old. So it’s time for an upgrade. That’s why we’re replacing your old meter with a new digital electricity meter.”

“AGL is upgrading your electricity meter free of charge. Then, you will no longer need to worry about manual meter reads or estimated bills.”

“If you would prefer not to be upgraded, simply call us on 1300 669 245 any time before 21 March or visit agl.com.au/upgrade”

Interestingly the website mentioned on the brochure is incorrect. The proper link is:https://refer.agl.com.au/forms/digital-metering/

On that link it is stated: “If you’ve received a letter from us offering you a free digital electricity meter and you’d prefer to opt out or reschedule your installation, please click the appropriate button below.”

For anyone on this list in NSW and who use AGL as their provider you only have to March 21 to opt out. After that date it is too late and if a smart meter ends up on the external by your bedroom you may need to stock up on sleeping pills for insomnia may result. See some Victorian examples here.

For anyone thinking of complaining to the NSW Greens party about smart meter issues don’t waste your time for here is their policy:

Support the widespread roll-out of ‘smart’ metering, which measures electricity use and price by demand and time of day, along with new tariff arrangements to encourage energy conservation and strategic demand reductions with mechanisms to protect low-income households from avoidable increases in energy bills;

Basically what the Greens’ ill-thought-out policy is claiming is that Time of Use (TOU) tariffs will result in consumers changing their energy habits resulting in less energy usage. Unfortunately the evidence falsifies this claim. Consider:

Excerpts from my March 18, 2015 submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission:

An investigation by Ontario’s auditor-general Bonnie Lysyk , published in December 2014, found that Ontario’s $2 billion smart meter program has failed to meet electricity conservation or cost-reduction goals and delivered few benefits at a hefty cost. She specifically criticised the province’s energy bureaucrats for plunging into the system without proper planning, and making it impossible for consumers to understand their rising hydro bills. Her findings included:
• Smart meters were supposed to cost $1 billion. In fact, the total cost will be double that amount.
• The energy ministry grossly over-estimated the benefits of the smart meter program.
• Energy bureaucrats have bamboozled consumers for years by hiding the true costs of energy in a catch-all fee called the “global adjustment” that now makes up the majority of the cost of energy.
• The initial cost-benefit estimate — which proved wildly inaccurate — was performed only after the energy board had approved its implementation plan.
• Costs continued to rise after the initial $1 billion estimate. They stood at $1.4 billion by the end of 2013, Lysyk reported.
• In addition, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) — which operates the Ontario power grid minute by minute — spent $249 million on a provincial data centre to collect the torrent of information that flows out of smart meters. That cost is billed to ratepayers.

There were also concerns expressed in the Victorian Auditor General’s 2009 report on the rollout of smart meters in that state. To quote:

“There has been insufficient analysis to fully understand potential perverse outcomes, risks, and unintended consequences for consumers. This means that there is no clarity whether the distribution of costs and benefits between electricity businesses and consumers will be consistent with the intended outcomes of the program, and equitably allocated through the mandated cost recovery regime.”

Time-of-Use (TOU) pricing

Time-of-Use pricing is a move away from a fixed price per kilowatt/hour to real-time pricing whereby the price of power changes on an hour-to-hour basis, depending on overall power demand. In other words during those hot summer days when people have the air conditioner on, it will cost more. According to the theory, higher prices will encourage consumers to change their daily energy use habits to use their appliances during lower pricing times, thereby saving money. This is a problem as research indicates that most consumers are unlikely to be able to shift their energy usage times and do their washing, cooking, watching TV or using their air-conditioner at 2am! Therefore for most consumers their electricity bills will increase unless they are insomniacs.

One of the unstated reasons for the push for real-time pricing is the only way to really take advantage of it is to get rid of many of your old appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, etc. and purchase new smart appliances that can be programmed to automatically operate at low power pricing times. This is acknowledged by Zealand Network Tasman Ltd where they have stated that the purported benefits of smart meters is so that “Consumers can set energy efficient appliances to interact with their advanced meter to alter usage to suit their lifestyle and manage electricity costs”.

The problem here, especially for low-income consumers is that this would require an investment of several thousands of dollars to upgrade their home appliances if they want to reduce their power bill – a fact not mentioned in the sales promotion for the advantages of TOU pricing. It’s worth noting that all the major appliance manufacturers are now promoting the smart grid and TOU pricing as it is creating a global market for their new range of smart appliances.

(A pdf of this paper, with references, is available upon request)

A rapid smart meter rollout in NSW and the Greens support it!


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