French smart meter to increase electricity bills-consumer group
PARIS, Sept 24
PARIS, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The introduction of the "Linky" smart meter in French homes by utility EDF will increase electricity bills by forcing millions of consumers to upgrade to more expensive subscriptions, a consumer group said on Tuesday.
EDRF, the power distribution business of France's biggest power utility EDF, plans to install 35 million smart meters in France between 2016 and 2020. At a cost of 30 euros per meter and 120 euros for installation, the replacement of the old meters will cost more than five billion euros. This will be paid by ERDF and is expected to be financed by productivity gains.
But consumer organisation UFC Que Choisir said the ultra-sensitive meters - which can be read remotely - will reduce the leeway for temporarily exceeding existing power consumption limits. This will force millions of consumers to take more expensive subscriptions for higher power levels.
UFC said that 37 percent of French households have a subscription level below their regular needs, but that existing meters allow for temporary peak usage, such as when two or more power-hungry appliances are switched on simultaneously.
An upgrade to a higher subscription level would cost consumers 308 million euros per year once Linky is fully operational, UFC said.
UFC said upgrading to the new subscription level would be billed at 36 euros by ERDF, adding up to another 366 million euros. The organisation wants ERDF to waive the cost of a subscription change for two years after the Linky is installed.
ERDF Strategy Director Marc Boillot told Reuters that with 300,000 Linky meters already installed, only 3,000 clients had asked for a change in the subscription power level.
He said the UFC sample study of 200 households not representative enough to extrapolate to millions of households.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq and Benjamin Mallet. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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