Have you been wondering what a smart meter really is and how it can impact your electricity bills? While it may seem a bit confusing at first, smart meter technology is actually quite useful and can help you manage your energy account better. In this smart meter guide, Mozo answers some of the frequently asked questions about the technology so you can understand exactly what to expect from a smart billing cycle.
In simple words, a smart meter is a digital device that uses latest technology to measure and record your electricity usage every half an hour. One of the best features of a smart meter is that it automatically sends electronic meter readings to your energy provider. This means that there’s no need for someone to physically visit your property’s meter, thereby eliminating the risk of erroneous or estimated readings.
If you can manage your energy account online, you should also be able to access real-time data on your energy consumption and the related cost. Or, you could get an in-home display installed in your house to view your electricity usage information over a wireless connection.
Unlike a smart meter, which can give you and your electricity provider up-to-date information about your energy usage and costs, a traditional electricity meter only records the amount of electricity that has passed through it. So, with a traditional meter, all you can tell about your electricity consumption is how much energy you have used since someone last read the meter.
Smart meters have multiple advantages including:
Smart meters use short bursts of radio waves or low level radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (EME) to communicate your meter reading to your provider. One of the main concerns around smart meters has be regarding the health issues related to these EMEs. According to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), there is no established scientific evidence that the low level RF EME exposure from smart meters causes any health effects. You can read about this in more detail here.
Another concern with regard to the use of smart meters in Australia has been based on the breach of privacy. Smart meters have access to real time data about a household’s energy usage, which means they can capture information about the activity inside the home including which appliances are used at what time and for how long on a regular basis. This detailed data can generate a lot of information about the lives and habits of the residents. If the distributors share this information with a third party without the customer’s knowledge, it could lead to a breach of privacy. While the government generally requires distributors and retailers to obtain the customer’s consent before sharing any personal information, there are certain exceptions to this rule that you should make yourself aware of.
While a smart meter itself can’t lower your energy bills, having access to more real-time data can help you manage your account better. You can actually track how much energy you are spending at different times of the day and through the year, which can then help you plan your energy usage patterns more efficiently. In general, smart meters should also lead to more flexible billing and pricing options in the future.
One of the benefits of having a smart meter installed is that you can opt for a flexible pricing plan. A flexible pricing plan or time of use tariff means that you will be charged different rates for using electricity during peak, shoulder and off peak time slots. According to this plan, you will have to pay higher rates for using electricity at peak times, lower rates during the shoulder period and the lowest rate at off-peak times. This plan works best for people who regularly use electricity in non-peak times, or have the option to change their energy usage behaviour to non-peak periods.
Yes, you can switch your energy supplier if you have a smart meter. In fact, switching becomes easier and faster because with a smart meter since you’ll have access to real-time data, you won’t need to wait for your next meter reading before the switch can be finalised. When you decide to switch suppliers, typically, you’ll have a 10-day cooling off period when you can cancel the switch and stay with your old provider without having to pay a termination fee.
Currently, in Australia, different states and energy providers have different policies for installing smart meters. For example, while Victoria has completed the mandatory rollout of over two million smart meters across the state, NSW and other states are giving residents the choice of whether they want a smart meter installed at their property or not. Generally, some companies are trying to replace traditional meters within a set timeframe, and others are only focusing on installing smart meters in new buildings or when old meters need replacement.
Just the way you are paying for the maintenance of your traditional meter, you will also have to pay for your smart meter. The electricity meter is owned by your electricity distributor who recovers the cost over time through your retailer. In short, the charges for installing and maintaining the smart meter is recovered through your electricity bill over time.
Your smart meter should be compatible with rooftop solar panels as well. Smart meters can calculate the electricity you send to the grid to ensure you are reimbursed for any applicable feed-in tariffs.