Smart Meters | QUESTION TIME


Mr MURRAY (Davenport) (14:36): Thank you for the opportunity to ask this question. Can the Minister for Energy and Mining please update the house on the rollout of smart meters in South Australia?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:36): I thank the member for Davenport for this important question. The member for Davenport is always focused on his electors and on what is in their very best interest. The status of the rollout of smart meters has to do with new houses that need new meters as well as upgrades, typically when a home owner gets solar panels on the roof or some other upgrade that needs an upgraded meter.

Unfortunately the rollout has been going very poorly. In December last year, under the previous government, new rules came in—in fairness not only in South Australia but across the nation—which handed the responsibility for installing and replacing these meters to retailers. That has led to very poor performance; the retailers have not delivered well at all. South Australians have been left without meters, without electricity in their homes for excessively long periods of time. Some people have been about to move into their homes, or expecting to move into their homes, but they still cannot because there is no electricity. They have had to move into hotels and other things.

The Australian Energy Market Commission took it upon itself to improve these rules and change them, and they have a rule out for consultation at the moment that will come into effect on 1 January. That is far too late, not nearly soon enough for South Australia, so the Marshall Liberal government has taken the bull by the horns and done two things: we have developed draft regulations which will apply in South Australia, if they are implemented, and we have also reached agreement with retailers to improve their service.

As announced earlier today—and this is additional information for this house right now—our government has come to an agreement with AGL, Energy Australia and also Origin Energy, which represent 75 per cent of the electricity market in South Australia. They have signed agreements with the government to deliver a vastly improved service both in regard to the time of the installation or upgrade of the meters and in regard to an acceptance that they will pay fines that will be passed on to households, if necessary, to recompense them for any harm done. The fines are not what we want to see. The households don’t want to receive this compensation payment. The households just want their meters installed on time.

If necessary, if there’s a breach of this new agreement by any of these three retailers representing 75 per cent of the market, then a householder may receive $175 or $250 per day, depending on which retailer they are with. There is scope for householders to agree additional time outside the six or 10 days that’s contemplated. Of course, if an extended time is mutually agreed, that’s fine. But we were not prepared to sit on our hands while the rules that the previous government implemented penalised all South Australian households in this situation.

We have come to an agreement with these retailers. I thank these three retailers for the fact that, while they acknowledge their service was not good enough previously, they have got on board and agreed to improve that significantly. I encourage all of the other retailers to lift their game, too, and follow the lead of these three retailers so that South Australians get the service that they deserve.