A six-year process of installing smart meters in Victorian homes has come to an end, with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) set to refund customers after an audit process identified overspending by businesses in the state.
The advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) transition, an initiative to install 2.8 million smart meters across Victoria, resulted in over $2.5 billion in infrastructure spending between 2009 and 2015. At the close of the programme, the AER discovered electricity distributors spent $192 million more than was necessary, and committed to refunding that amount to customers.
"The cost of smart meters is a small proportion of the overall bill so consumers may not notice a change on their bill following this decision," said AER Chair Paula Conboy.
"But it's important for consumers to know that the AER has audited the businesses' costs and that they can be confident they have not paid more than what the program should have cost."
Smart meter progress across Australia
The decision to mandate smart meter installation in Victoria has met some resistance over the course of the AMI, however other states are leaving the option to transition in the hands of customers. The evolution of the devices – and those energy providers supporting them – is resulting in much more visible benefits for consumers.
"There is a school of thought there has not been much benefit for consumers [in Victoria], but that is because the majority of people have not been given data in a way that is user friendly. Now we have lots of new, innovative players coming in," Ed McManus, Powershop chief executive, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
With several major power suppliers already rolling out smart meters and accompanying mobile apps in NSW, South Australia and Queensland, more Australians are experiencing the benefits of better energy management.
"It is completely changing the way we think about electricity and power, moving us to a world where we can decide when we want to buy and sell our power," said Stephen King, professor of economics at Monash University.