Spat over Victoria smart meter rollout costs


Peter Batchelor,
Victoria’s Minister
of Energy
Melbourne, Australia — (METERING.COM) — May 20, 2010 – With elections looming in Victoria, the government’s smart metering rollout to 2.5 million homes and businesses across the state is turning into something of a political football with the latest spat over its costs.

Earlier this week, energy minister Peter Batchelor told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee that the rollout is expected to cost around Au$1.6 billion (US$1.39 billion) over 20 years – as much as double estimates made earlier in the project in 2008.

Batchelor explained that the earlier estimate was for interval meters and that as a result of discussions with the industry it was decided instead to roll out smart meters to obtain the greater benefits and functionalities they offer. Therefore the two costs cannot be compared.

However the opposition party, Labour Victoria, which has dubbed the rollout as the “myki of metering,” rounded on the government over “the smart meter debacle.” In a statement shadow minister for energy and resources said: “It is obscene for Victorians to have to pay double for this smart meter blowout … The government can spend and it can spin, but it just can’t deliver when it counts.”

This in turn prompted Batchelor to respond with a sharply worded statement accusing the opposition of spreading lies to mislead the public on the project, rather than put forward a plan to tackle climate change.

This is not the first time the rollout has attracted controversy and an audit from the state’s auditor-general last year was critical of the administration of the project.

Batchelor was quoted as saying that a cost-benefits study currently underway will show that the benefits of the rollout will be between Au$2 billion (US$1.73 billion) and Au$4 billion (US$3.46 billion) and that clearly these will outweigh the costs.

“That’s why we’re proceeding with this,” Batchelor said.

The cost-benefits study – the fourth to be conducted on the project – is expected to be released before the state elections in November.