The debate on electricity smart meters will reach a crescendo this Friday when the Prime Minister presents her plans to lower power prices to COAG. Much of the package focuses on regulatory changes. However the real innovation and savings occur when households both see the real cost of the electricity they consume (including the costs of network congestion) and can make consumption choices based on those costs. And that needs smart meters.
Already the wagons are circling against smart meters. Here is an article from WA. And the state government has a point – if a centrally-planned, Soviet style approach is taken to smart meters. So the real test for COAG is not whether they endorse smart meters, but whether they endorse a market driven approach to these meters.
I have argued for the benefits of a market based approach to smart meters here. But for the sceptics, let me just ask the following question:
Would you be happy if the government decided what mobile phone you (and everyone else) was allowed to use? Would you be happy with them trying to ‘pick’ the best mobile phone for you going forward? Do you think having government mandated phones (and, no, you couldn’t refuse to have one or choose an alternative – that would be illegal) would lead to more innovation and better service for customers?
If you answered ‘yes’ then welcome to the world of the Trabant. If you answered ‘no’, then the only way forward is to allow the market for smart meters to work. It will be a messy world with a range of meters and different plans and options. But it will also empower households and help households make better choices over their power consumption.