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Killer smart meters torch Aussie homes!

Three of them, actually

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Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade has announced an investigation whether smart meters are responsible for three fires that started in switchboards.

In a move that’s bound to spark a fear-mongers’ feeding frenzy (for reasons I will get to in a minute), the MFB said that while there’s no evidence of a connection between the fires and the smart meters installed in them, the brigade has a duty “to investigate any trend or cause of any incidents it attends”.

The brigade also emphasized that there are, in fact, around 26 switchboard fires in Victoria each year.

However, even a statistically-insignificant association is bound to get tongues wagging in Australia, because Victoria’s 850,000 smart meters feature ingredients guaranteed to send the echo chamber aflame: they were installed under a government-sponsored program, the government that sponsored the program was Labor-led, and there are house fires to provide handy TV images.

To El Reg, this sounds too much like a re-run of the federal government’s home insulation program to escape a bit of media hype. Sky News, for example, couldn’t resist ticking all the boxes in this piece.

The federal government’s “pink batts” program was abandoned amid confected outrage in which the insulation was blamed for an increase in house fires. The myth-building was so strong that both media and the public still believe there were more fires in homes that were insulated under the scheme – even when it became clear that this wasn’t the case.

For a good analysis of CSIRO data about home fires and the insulation scheme, Crikey blogger Pollytics tried to unravel the fear-and-loathing earlier this year.

And what’s happening in Victoria? A few fires – without any particular context – start in switchboards that have had smart meters installed.

I can hear the knives being sharpened already … ®

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