SMART METERS in Victoria

A smart meter is a meter that records consumption, mostly electricity, but can also be used for water, gas, etc. It is labelled “smart” because, using digital technology, in a lot of ways it offers a lot of technological advances over the older “analogue” or mechanical meters. 

They have the mechanism to record in intervals of an hour or less, and CAN COMMUNICATE through an in-built two way transmitting system to the utility for monitoring and billing purposes, and possibly other uses, such as:

  • Creating a plan where the rate charged is a not constant, a higher cost per Kilowatt hour at a time of high demand. This is the reason that some people call this meter a “TIME OF USE” meter

  • The ability to disconnect supply from a head office to a customer who is in default of payments, without anyone coming close to the home or street in question.

  • Pre payments for power if the system allows it

As the rollout continues and system stabilises, no doubt other uses are found that can take advantage of this technological little box and its infrastructure. The present meters used in Victoria are using Wireless technology for their transmission, although Broadband lends itself cheaper and possibly safer for this operation, but it would have delayed its deployment if the authorities waited for the National Broadband Network's fibre optic cables to be up and going throughout suburbia. 

There are some concerns regarding the ........

HEALTH, PRIVACY, Unit PRICE, PEAK HOUR RATES AFFORDABILITY, and probably the most contentious issue for a lot of people -  as to the Democratic right in NOT wanting it, in the first place.

Health:- The pulsed radiofrequency radiation emitted by smart meters is the source of health concern. Environmental Medicine scientists do not agree as to what is a safe level of radiation, perhaps no different than Mobile Phones, internet Wi-fi, and any other wireless application that we have around our home. The frequency used in these devices is lower and hence it deserves better monitoring for any adverse effects.
On January 19, 2012, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for the California Public Utility Commission to place an immediate moratorium on Smart Meter installation and to hold hearings on Smart Meter health impacts, stating that: ......
“As representatives of physician specialists in the field of environmental medicine we have an obligation to urge precaution when sufficient scientific and medical evidence suggests health risks which can potentially affect large populations”.


Privacy:- When one considers that a device fitted in people’s homes is transmitting periodical information of what is going on in the privacy of suburbia, that brings out a lot of questions about how NOT SO PRIVATE our lives are becoming…This unit is for power consumption, some would argue that it is feasible that we could see other meters coming along for other uses.
These can be used for surveillance, revealing information about people's possessions and behaviour. For instance, it can show when the customer is away for extended periods.

Unit Price:- Most of these units being installed around the world, do not incur a…. BUY NOW price tag, instead the costs and roll out of these units are invariably being paid for by Governments and privatised distribution companies, and a yearly levy being then imposed on the customers to be added to their usage. It is a shady area; levies vary from place to place and from year to year, quite often determined by the PROVIDERS.  So many unknown factors still abound, and even Government legislation keeps changing. At present, installation of these meters will incur IN VICTORIA  in addition to the YEARLY CONSUMPTION a charge of between $70 and $140. 

According to eMeter Corporation, a meter data intelligence department of Siemens, the average cost of smart meters sold to utility companies in the US is $221, and in Europe $272. A spokesperson for the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) confirmed the Victorian distribution companies paid an average of $346 to their suppliers. Powercor paid the highest at $423.......New South Wales is still in the process of implementing the rollout, their wait and see policy is no doubt paying dividends in better value for money for the consumers, and in ensuring better transparency with the suppliers of these meters and their wholesale price to the power distributors......Australia seems always to pay more for electronic hardware, perhaps as a result of a smaller population or not enough government control on the supply chain.

The first round of manufacturers of these devices have been the traditional "Western Countries"  keeping a tight control on price, but like any other invention, the unit price will surely fall considerably just like the price of computers, and it seems to the writer of this article that governments should take this into consideration and NOT to enter into LONG TERM Unit price agreements with privatised power distributors.

Peak hour Price Affordability:- The authorities behind this project, both government and private enterprise do not hide the fact that one of the  intended reasons of this changeover is to be able to charge a graduated PRICE RATE OF USAGE that rewards people in using less energy at times of high POWER STATION demand.

In a World with an ongoing march for a cleaner, ENERGY EFFICIENT way of life, you could argue that this is no different than the legislation put in place around the carbon emissions/footprint blueprints. The ratio of energy consumption between peak  and off peak times is quite large, and generation infrastructure has to accommodate this divergence, which in turn means waste and unnecessary pollution. The notion that one charges a higher rate at high demand times is in a way no different than the charges of petrol pricing or an airline or hotel booking.

It is not an easy debate to tell someone, that to be able to afford power to your home, you should go to bed at 7pm and get up at 4am to even the load on the Power generator!!! I am sure that in time, humans will create a better arrangement as to the  use of our resources, this is a period of transition, and just like the motor car gradually replaced the horse carriage, so will we find a better way of doing things smart meter wise.

This rationale has to be balanced with people of lower income and the more vulnerable members of our community, that has to cope with these rises, and then it becomes the duty of government to make reasonable financial stop gaps for this group.

How about if I don't want to change to a new meter?
Online FORUMS are filled with thousands of irate consumers venting out these feelings, not to mention TALK RADIO, and other media venues.
It is not the intention of the writer of this article at Melbourne-Vic.com to enter this arena, but we help our readers to be informed by following some of the links we are providing for further information of this subject.

In conclusion, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reviewed in Jan 2011, more than 36 different residential smart metering and feedback programmes internationally.


Their conclusion was: “To realise potential feedback-induced savings, smart meters must be used in conjunction with in-home (or on-line) displays and well-designed programmes that successfully inform, engage, empower and motivate people” 


Joseph C Agius, for Melbourne-Vic.com ...May 2013