October 7, 2011 – In an estimated $250 million blow to consumers, the state’s electricity distributors are using advanced wireless technology – not broadband – to bring the smart meters to life.
And the distributors confirm the meters have a lifespan of just 15 years, which means Victorians will begin paying for replacements from 2024.
A Herald Sun investigation has found the meters were not built to "interface" with the Gillard Government’s massive digital cable network, which is being fed into homes across Australia.
They deliver data via hi-tech systems known as 4G or "wiremesh".
Analysts say the NBN – which Victorians are already paying for – could do the same job in most homes for less money. Distributors say the NBN was not up to the task for "complex technical" reasons.
"The NBN was significantly less desirable than other solutions on several fronts – design, rollout timing and cost," spokesman Hugo Armstrong said.
Victoria’s five-year smart meter rollout began in October 2009. The NBN rollout started here in August.
The State Government is reviewing the meter project, agreed to by former energy minister Peter Batchelor.
About 800,000 of more than two million meters have been installed so far, and the rollout cost has doubled to more than $2 billion.
Communications analyst Paul Budde believes the cost of Victoria’s smart meter program would be cut by more than $500 million if broadband-friendly meters were used.
"Victoria needs to start talking to NBN to see where they can start working together," he said.
Other analysts approached by the Herald Sun have estimated the savings at between $250 million and $300 million.
"Smart meters would have cost Victorians hundreds of millions of dollars less if we had waited for the technology to evolve and if we had first conducted trials so we better understood how the rollout might work," said Alternative Technology Association policy expert Craig Memery.
Mr Armstrong disputed the estimated savings under broadband.
"All the indications are that the costs and complexity of using the broadband network for smart meter communications are significantly greater than the dedicated solutions that are being used," he said.