SMART meters. The mind goes wild thinking about the possibilities that these little doosies designed to make us energy-smart might offer.
I'm picturing Beryl, from Bairnsdale, watching the needle on her meter right there in her kitchen give a tiny jolt when she turns on her mixer to whizz up a cake.
And when the Nintendos, the washing machine, the kids' computers, the dishwasher and the vacuum cleaner are all on at once, why, any rational being would reckon a smart meter, if correctly named, would at least register a big red YOU'RE USING TOO MUCH ENERGY AND IT'S COSTING YOU A PACKET sign.
Oh, how deluded could I be.
A smart meter is a smart meter because it can be read remotely, which means the energy companies don't need to send meter readers out to our homes or guess what our power use will be for the next quarter bill.
It will tell the energy companies where blackouts are, saving them from having to rely on people phoning in or from having to send out line-checkers.
It can also tell the energy companies how much power we're using every half hour. They're very smart. For the energy companies. Not for us householders.
The truth is, Beryl from Bairnsdale won't even be able to read her smart meter.
For starters, the smart meter Beryl and you and I and all Victorian households will have installed some time in the next three years, thanks to Jumping Johnny Brumby, will be outside our homes, not inside.
There'll be no standing in the kitchen getting our kicks watching the meter jolt when the whizzer starts.
Plus we, not the power companies, will pay for them.
The Victorian Auditor-General says our power bills will rise an extra $67.97 on average in 2010 and another $8.42 on average in 2011 to pay for them.
Once we've paid for these smart meters, you'd reckon we'd get the information, but nope, not immediately.
That goes direct to the energy distributors and then to the energy retailers, who are about to engage in a whole new line of product retailing.
To make any sense of the information obtained by these smart meters, you and I and Beryl will be buying in-home display units, or going online to make sense of how much power we're using when and which gadgets are using it and how we can change our time of use to cut our energy costs. I hope so.
We'll need that extra cash to pay for the extra gadgets.
So if, like me, you were hoping the smart meter really was a smart meter for the consumer, you're wrong.
It's clever, but for the real smarts we'll need to buy additional gadgets or online services.
IT companies are already spruiking about the whizzbangery they'll be able to concoct to deliver the graphs and circles and colour maps to "interpret" our energy use, which in turn will encourage us to change our kilowatt hour consumption.
(Read any IT news page to check their glee!)
Not that I mind.
If we even out electricity demand, we might negate the need for more power-generating stations.
After all, one-fifth of our current generation capacity is only used for just four days a year, four very hot days presumably.
Still, Beryl and I were hoping for more, something a little more user-friendly for us in our kitchens, an all-in-one gadget that does what the energy companies want and what we want too.
Besides, Beryl's home is computer-free. Online is a dirty word for her.
I have a feeling that Jumping Johnny Brumby, who's mighty keen to get the meters out there, is going to wish he waited until our meters got just a little smarter before he imposed them on us.