Electricity Smart Meters in Victoria
In 2006 the Victorian government initiated the rollout of smart meters, making it the first Australian state to make them mandatory for all households. Despite the controversy with the government’s decision, all homes in Victoria now have a smart meter to measure electricity usage. Maybe you’re new to Victoria and have never had a smart meter before, or maybe you want to learn more about how you can use your smart meter to lower your energy usage and take control of your electricity bills. Whatever your reason, keep reading below so you can learn more about smart meters in Victoria.
Are smart meters compulsory in Victoria?
Since 2006, smart meters have been compulsory in all Victorian homes and businesses. This initiative, through the Victorian Government, installed more than 2.8 million new smart meters across residential and business properties in the state between 2006 and 2014. As part of the initiative, when the rollout ended in 2014, the government set up two rebates for energy customers in Victoria in order to incentivise consumers and electricity distributors to finish installing smart meters across the state. As such, every home in Victoria now has a smart meter installed on the property to measure electricity usage.
How do smart meters in Victoria work?
There are two types of energy meters available, analogue meters and smart meters. Traditional analogue meters measure the cumulative energy usage of your property, so when the meter reader comes to read your energy usage for billing purposes, they only see the total amount of energy you used during your billing period.
Smart meters, however, work a little differently. Smart meters measure and record energy usage every 30 minutes, before transmitting that data to your electricity distributor. Rather than only being able to see the total cumulative energy you used during a billing period, they can see how much energy you used in 30-minute increments.
Energy distributors make this energy usage data available to your energy provider, for billing purposes. Your energy provider can also make your energy consumption data available for you to view, either online, on an application, or with an in-home display. With your energy usage data available, you can then monitor your household’s energy usage in order to reduce your energy bills, compare energy plans, or manage consumption.
Benefits of owning a smart meter in VIC
The benefits of smart meters are numerous for both electricity consumers and distributors in Victoria.
Remote meter readings: Smart meters can be read remotely, so you don’t need a meter reader to come by your property once every billing period. You, the consumer, will benefit from only being charged for your actual usage (rather than estimated readings) and energy distributors no longer need to send meter readers out to get usage information.
Faster and cheaper connections and disconnections: Smart meters are not only able to be read remotely, but they can also be connected and disconnected remotely. This makes it easier if you need your electricity connected or disconnected quickly if, for example, you are moving home and you’ll be charged less for connections and disconnections.
Outage monitoring and detection: Smart meters can quickly notify your electricity distributor of outages, allowing them to locate and fix the problem more quickly and easily. In addition, Victorian electricity customers can register to receive free SMS notifications of major electricity outages in your area so you know if your power goes out, even if you aren’t home.
Monitor your energy: Smart meters allow you to monitor your energy usage in almost real-time through your provider’s energy management portal online or via phone application, giving you better control of your daily energy habits.
Switch providers more quickly: With traditional analogue meters, if you switched energy providers you would have had to have waited until the end of your billing cycle for your final meter reading before being moved onto a new provider’s energy plan. Now thanks to remote readings you no longer need to wait, potentially months, for your final energy bill from your old provider. You can organize a remote reading as soon as you switch, so you can start saving with new electricity rates more quickly.
Choice in tariffs: With a smart meter, you have more flexibility in your energy tariffs. Analogue metering meant you could only have a flat-rate tariff and be charged for the same energy at all times of the day. Now, you can choose a flexible time-of-use tariff instead, and get charged less for your energy usage during off-peak hours of the day (such as overnight or on the weekends).
Solar panels: Smart meters and solar panels go together like bread and butter. With a smart meter, you can monitor how much solar energy you are generating with your solar PV system, and how much of that you’re sending back into the grid. Energy providers like Powerclub will even alert you if there’s a spike in energy prices on the grid due to high demand, so you can power down your home and send more generated solar energy into the grid and earn more money with your solar feed-in-tariff.
Concerns and problems with smart meters in Victoria
As with all new technology, there are some concerns about the safety and privacy of smart meters. In Victoria, this was no different and in fact compounded by the fact that smart meters were forced onto all homes and businesses. There were, and still are, claims of more expensive energy bills, privacy breaches, and even impacts on personal health, that make people wary of smart meters.
Are smart meters bad for your health?
One of the biggest concerns with smart meters is that they might have an impact on your health and wellbeing. Smart meters transmit their data with radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME), which is a form of radiation. Since smart meters have begun to be rolled out, there have been anecdotal reports of things such as headaches, dizziness, and mood swings, which are claimed to be linked to the RF EME, as well as longer-term health concerns such as increased risks to cancer.
However, RF EME is not a new technology, and is used in many small electronics such as cell phones. In addition, a study commissioned by the Victorian Government in 2011, and another in 2015, found that not only is the RF EME too low to cause any side-effects but the location of smart meters (on the sides of homes and outside apartments), even further reduces the amount of RF EME you might be exposed to.
Problems with smart meters in Victoria
Health concerns aren’t the only controversy surrounding smart meters. Like any new technology, there are concerns with everything from privacy to safety.
Invasion of privacy: Smart meters read your energy usage in 30-minute increments, and concerns have been raised that energy providers would be able to use that information to see insights into your life like when you’re home, if you’re awake or asleep, or maybe even the appliances you are using.
Wring and appliance damage: Anecdotal evidence has stated that smart meters might occasionally cause damage to a home’s wiring and appliances. There is no proof of this, however, and energy providers and distributors insist that smart meters are not to blame.
Tech security: A smart meter is a small computer, and as a result could potentially be hacked like one. Concerns have been raised that hackers would be able to cut electricity supply to homes with just the press of a button, or change the energy usage numbers.
How to read a smart meter
The biggest draw to getting a smart meter is being able to see almost real-time data about your household’s energy usage. Know what your smart meter looks like, and how to read it, can help you better understand your energy consumption.
What do smart meters in Victoria look like?
Smart meters are small, grey, boxes located on the side of your house. They have a digital display which might show the date, and the kWh usage. You usually can’t read your smart meter itself, it won’t show you anything of importance on the actual meter’s digital display, but most energy providers offer some sort of online portal so you can monitor your usage online or on your phone.
The NMI, or National Meter Identifier, is a unique 10 or 11-digit number attached to your electricity meter. The NMI is used to make sure the correct meter data is attached to the correct bill. Some electricity providers also let you use your NMI to compare energy plans using more accurate usage information. While you can usually use a postcode or address to find the electricity rates for your area, the NMI can give you more accurate estimated annual cost based on the historic usage for the property the smart meter is located on.
Smart meter in-home display through Victorian Energy Upgrades
The installation of in-home displays under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program has been temporarily suspended, effective from 13 July 2020.
The Victorian Government and the Victorian Energy Upgrades program recently rolled out an initiative to help electricity customers with smart meters better monitor their electricity usage through in-home displays by offering rebates to customers who purchase a display through an accredited provider. These in-home displays then enable customers to monitor their energy usage in their home, as it occurs, to understand and manage energy consumption and reduce costs.