Consumer Action welcomes the new Government’s attempt to understand and address some of the underlying consumer concerns with the mandated rollout of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) or smart meters. The rollout has resulted in fear and confusion for a number of Victorian consumers and the subsequent, ongoing, lengthy and expensive, program review processes has not yet assisted in resolving consumer issues.
We believe the AMI rollout has struggled to identify, or at the very least, articulate its objectives beyond benefits to industry, including a policy vision of what it sees as the future of the energy sector from both a supply side and a demand side. While we acknowledge that AMI may have benefits for consumers, the rollout to date has failed to identify what role consumers have in the Victorian energy market, or what consumer interests need to be protected.
As representatives of consumers who have been actively engaged in the AMI process for the past four years, we feel that simple recognition that the rollout represents a significant transition in the way consumers interact with energy would have assisted the Government anticipate issues before they became problems. In particular, the lack of ownership of the rollout by Government, and thus accountability, has caused significant problems. Rather than leading the important reform, the Government largely outsourced the rollout to consultants and industry which allowed it to proceed as simple a technical upgrade. This effectively resulted in a policy vacuum. 2
It is not too late for the current Government to set the process back on track. To do this, it will simply need to put the interests of consumers first. Importantly, we do not see why consumers should bear the entire upfront cost of the rollout, particularly when there are many unfounded assumptions being made about the extent of the benefits being passed through to consumers. It is our view that business should burden some of the direct costs of the rollout which may be recovered later through cost savings.
To read our submission, click here: Advanced metering infrastructure program – Issues paper for public consultation.