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Smart Meters: Should I Switch to a Smart Meter in Australia?

Smart Meter

The smart meter rollout is happening all across Australia. By replacing old, analogue electricity meters with smart meters it’s easier to keep an eye on your energy usage, and better understand your energy bills. Learn more about smart meters in Queensland and have all your questions and concerns about the smart meter rollout answered, by reading more below so you know why it’s the smart choice to switch to a smart meter.

What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters, also known as digital meters or advanced meters, are a type of electricity meter that automatically measures your home energy usage every 30 minutes. Smart meters send your energy usage directly to your supplier which means you no longer have to manually read your meter and allows you to have more accurate bills.

Unlike traditional electricity meters which must be read by hand, smart meters make it easier to manage your energy usage by:

  1. Reading your meter for you automatically, which helps you avoid estimated bills
  2. Allowing you to see your energy consumption in almost real-time & adjust your usage accordingly
  3. Giving you accurate data regarding your energy consumption to help you compare energy plans more easily against the reference price
  4. Allowing your supplier to connect & disconnect your energy remotely when moving
  5. Letting you connect to energy management apps online
  6. Tracking the amount of solar energy you generate and export (for solar panels)

What Does a Smart Meter Look Like?

Picture of a Smart Meter

Smart meters are small, grey boxes located on the outside of your home or unit.

Smart meters tend to be smaller than traditional meters and have a digital LCD display instead of analogue dials, which show you information such as total kWh usage and today's date.

Some smart meters may have buttons on them that allow you to click through different screens displaying different information.

The most important piece of information found on your smart meter is your National Metering Identifier (NMI).

The NMI is a unique 10 or 11-digit number that identifies your electricity meter and is used by your supplier and energy distributor to identify your electricity connection within the grid within the national energy market. Your NMI can be found directly on your electricity meter and by reading your energy bill.

How Do I Know If I Have a Smart Meter?You can tell if you have a smart meter usually by looking at the meter display. Smart meters have a digital display. However, you can also log in to your online energy account and view your usage history. If your usage fluctuates day by day, this means you have a smart meter automatically tracking your energy usage for you.

How to Read a Smart Meter

It can be difficult to read your smart meter if you are looking at the device itself. Instead, try logging into your energy supplier's online portal where you can track your energy usage in almost real-time.

Most energy suppliers upload your smart meter data to your online account where you can view and track your energy usage with a 1-3 day turnaround.

Thanks to the National Electricity Law and the Privacy Act 1988, the data regarding your personal energy usage is secure and protected by your supplier and is not shared with others.

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Are Smart Meters Compulsory?

Technically, smart meters are not compulsory in Australia unless you live in Victoria. If you have a working analogue electricity meter that doesn’t need to be replaced, you don’t need to get a smart meter yet.

However, if you need a new meter installed it will have to be a smart meter as suppliers are no longer installing traditional meters.

Reasons why you may have to install a smart meter include:

  • Connecting a new build to the energy grid
  • Your old meter is faulty and needs to be replaced
  • You purchased a solar PV system or other electricity product that requires a smart meter per the DERR
  • You’ve agreed to your energy provider replacing your analogue meter as part of their digital meter rollout

You will receive a notice by email or in the post notifying you if your energy provider is rolling out digital meters to customers. If you’re not ready to install a smart meter, you can contact your energy provider and request them not to replace it.

Are Smart Meters Safe?

Yes, smart meters are safe.

There is no established evidence that smart meters can cause health issues.

All smart meters must adhere to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency's (ARPANSA) electromagnetic exposure guidelines. Other household devices such as baby monitors, mobile phones, cordless landlines, and internet routers are also subject to the same guidelines and restrictions. Therefore, smart meters are quite safe.

Some people have voiced their concern over the electromagnetic radiation that smart meters use to transmit data to your energy distributor.

However, according to ARPANSA, the low power of smart meters, their location outside of the home and their short transmission periods mean that overall electromagnetic and radiofrequency exposure is too low to cause adverse side-effects to health.

Smart meters rely on low-level radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME), also known as RF EME, to communicate with your energy distributor in short bursts of information. It’s important to remember that the technology behind smart meters is not new and many wireless devices, including mobile phones, use RF EME.

How to Get a Smart Meter

Smart meter installation is managed and organised by your energy retailer. You will need to contact your energy supplier (the company you pay your electricity bill to), who will then coordinate and organise the installation of your smart meter with a licensed and qualified electrician.

Installing a Smart Meter

Getting your smart meter installed on your property is a relatively simple process.

  1. Contact your energy provider to set up the smart meter installation date.
  2. The electrician will come to your property on the agreed-upon date,
  3. The electrician will remove your old analogue meter and replace it with your new digital smart meter

The smart meter installation should only take about one hour.

During this hour you’ll be without power, but it shouldn’t take very long until you’re back up and running with your new smart meter. Your energy supplier must always give you 4 days notice of any planned power cuts, which will give you ample time to make preparations and alternate arrangements during your installation.

When the electrician comes to your home to replace your analogue meter, make sure they have complete access to where the meter is located. Otherwise, you could face an extra charge if they are unable to access your meter and need to return another day.

How Much Do Smart Meters Cost?

Most energy providers are replacing and installing smart meters for free, at no cost to the energy consumer.

However, It’s best to read the fine print and make sure there are no hidden costs used to offset the installation price.

If you do have to pay, some retailers may charge an upfront fee, a lump sum, or spread out the cost of installing a smart meter over several billing periods. However, all energy suppliers are required to inform you of any upfront costs associated with your smart meter installation.

Reasons why you may be charged for a smart meter installation can include:

  • Removal of hazards such as asbestos
  • Having to move your meter location
  • Installing a new meter box if the new meter will not fit

You can resolve any disputes vía the Ombudsman.

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Why Should I Get a Smart Meter?

You should get a smart meter because they give you more insight, control, and understanding of your energy usage and bills. This means you will be able to save money, by understanding how and when you use your energy and implementing ways to reduce your consumption.

The benefits of a smart meter include:

More accurate meter readings: Smart meters send the information about your energy usage to your distributor digitally. These remote readings mean your energy bills will no longer be based on estimated readings which can be inaccurate. Instead, you’ll be charged for your exact monthly energy consumption.

 Monthly billing: Thanks to more frequent, and more accurate, energy readings, you can choose to get your electricity invoice every month rather than quarterly. Now, your energy payments will be smaller, and more frequent, allowing you to better plan and budget your monthly expenses while avoiding quarterly bill shock.

 Remote readings: With traditional analogue meters, if you need a special reading or a disconnection/reconnection, your energy distributor can charge you upwards of $100 in fees. With a smart meter, however, these readings, connections and disconnections can be done remotely for a lower fee (usually around $12).

 Choice of tariff: Smart meters allow you to access more tariffs such as time-of-use tariffs. With a time-of-use tariff, you’ll be charged more for your energy usage during peak times when there is more pressure on the electricity grid, and charged less when there is less demand on the energy grid. Using energy at off-peak hours allows you to save on your energy bills.

 Solar panels: If you’re interested in solar energy in QLD, a smart meter is necessary to monitor your solar energy generation, usage, and what you send back to the grid. This means you can see exactly how much you get from your solar feed-in-tariff, allowing you to manage your own energy consumption to earn more with your solar energy. You can read more about solar rebates in our energy rebates guide.

Smart Meter Information by State

See more information about smart meters in your state by selecting your region from the drop-down list below.

Smart Meter QLD

As of December 1, 2017, in accordance with the Electricity Act 1994 and the Electricity Regulation 2006, all new and replacement electricity meters installed in residential properties in Australia must be smart meters.

This mandate includes all of Queensland, except for off-grid locations and rural communities in regional Queensland.

Exceptions for rural areas include:

  • The Mt. Isa–Cloncurry network
  • Weipa
  • Rural communities supplied by Ergon Energy

Electricity suppliers must also now be in charge of installing QLD smart meters as well as maintaining, operating and reading your smart meter.

If you have a traditional analogue meter in Queensland, you can continue to use it until:

  • You agree to a proposal from your supplier to have a smart meter installed
  • You sign up for an energy plan that requires a smart meter
  • Your current analogue meter needs replacing due to a fault or old age

Smart Meter NSW

In NSW, smart meters are not compulsory. However, new regulations as of December 1, 2017, require that all new and replacement meters must be smart meters.

This includes mandatory smart meter installations for new builds and replacement meters for broken or failing analogue meters.

If you live in New South Wales and do not want a smart meter, you can request to keep your current meter until it stops working. However, after your current analogue meter fails, you will have to have a smart meter installed.

Some energy plans in NSW come combined with a smart meter installation. So, if you arent interested in having one installed, we recommend speaking to your supplier about your options.

If you would like to have a NSW smart meter installed you can contact your energy supplier to request one. Depending on the supplier and plan, the smart meter could be free of charge.

Alternatively, you may receive a notice from your supplier about them installing smart meters in your area. If so, you will receive 2 notifications with information about their smart meter rollout.

Smart Meter VIC

Since 2006, VIC smart meters have been compulsory in every home & business.

In fact, Victoria has already rolled out smart meters to all existing properties within the state.

This means that if you live in a residential property in Victoria, you already have a smart meter installed. If you are building a new home in Victoria, you must have a smart meter installed at the property to receive electricity. This is the same for businesses in Victoria.

Smart meters in Victoria were installed starting in 2009 by the 5 regional distributors:

  • CitiPower
  • United Energy
  • Jemena
  • AusNet Services
  • Powercor

If you have questions about your smart meter, you can contact the Victoria energy ombudsman.

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