Melbourne, Australia --- (METERING.COM) --- August 25, 2009 - Electricity bills for Victoria households could rise by as much as 35 percent, or $263 (US$220) per year, with the installation of smart meters and the reassignment to a time-of-use tariff, a new study from the St Vincent de Paul Society has found.

In the case of pensioner households, because of the higher supply charge associated with TOU pricing, which has a proportionally greater impact due to the lower household consumption levels, the increase could be even greater at up to 42 percent, or $255 (US$213) per year.

The report, prepared by May Mauseth Johnston, on consumer protection and smart meter issues for Victoria is the first in a five part series investigating jurisdictional and National Energy Market (NEM) issues pertaining to customer protections, community service obligations and regulation in light of smart meter infrastructure.

These costs exclude not only the underlying increases in energy costs over the timeframe of the meter rollout, but also the cost associated with the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) as well as the costs associated with the rollout of the smart meters.

Together these costs could increase domestic energy bills by as much as $490 (US$410) per annum, says the report.

“These are significant price increases and highlight the importance of the role of the broader consumer protection framework, and energy concessions, to act as both a tool to mitigate these cost impacts, as well as assisting households manage cost increases.”

In addition to the financial impacts of smart meters the report examines the current Victorian customer protections in comparison to the proposed National Energy Customer Framework (NECF) in light of smart meters, and discusses some of the economic regulation aspects.

The report also discusses customer protections embedded in Victorian legislation, including the ban on late payment fees for standing offer contracts, the wrongful disconnection payment, the ban on use of prepayment meters and the regulatory approval and auditing processes for hardship policies, and proposes a jurisdictional assistance scheme for customers experiencing significant financial disadvantage from being transferred from a two-rate (peak/off-peak) tariff to a time-of-use tariff.

Finally the report, with its more than 50 recommendations, concludes with some remarks on the Victorian market versus the proposed NECF, and highlights the inadequacy of the proposed protections within the NECF for a competitive, deregulated market such as Victoria.

The report, which was supported by various other organizations and charities, is expected to be presented to federal and state governments and energy regulators this week.

The St Vincent De Paul Society works to assist people in need and combat social injustice.