Queensland avoids smart meter mandate

New discussion paper cites Victorian smart meter debacle, says advanced electricity meter roll out must be 'customer-driven'

A report issued by the Queensland government advocates avoiding a mandated rollout of advanced electricity meters, such as smart meters, citing the much-criticised Victorian experience.

The cost of the Victorian smart meter rollout blew out dramatically, with a 2011 review by the state government finding its predecessor had underestimated the cost by $415 million.

As well, the program faced criticisms about meter safety, which the review said were unfounded, and time-of-use electricity pricing. The total cost of the Victorian rollout is in excess of $2 billion, compared to an initial estimate of around $900 million.

A 30-year electricity strategy discussion paper released today by the Queensland government instead supports a "customer-driven rollout of advanced meters", with service providers competing to offer metering services to consumers.

"Customers can choose to adopt the technology based on their own assessment of the benefits," the discussion paper states.

Advanced meters would include interval meters that provide time of use information and measure electricity consumption in small blocs than the more common accumulation meters, which provide only the total usage between manual reads.

Advanced meters rolled out in Queensland may include smart meters, which offer additional features such as two-way wireless communication between the meter and the electricity supplier.

A rollout of advanced meters would have to incorporate strong privacy protection for consumers as well as consumer engagement and education, according to the discussion paper.

With regards to time-of-use pricing, which charges based on when electricity is consumed as opposed to at a flat rate, the report says that "government policies give customers the choice on whether to accept these options".

"The proponents of advanced metering must be able to show consumers that the benefits of any rollout outweigh costs, if any, to them," states supplementary material issued with the discussion paper.

"To enable this, customers must be able to access their own data easily and be given the power to authorise other parties to help them better understand the opportunities to manage and make savings on their electricity consumption."

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