Frequently asked questions

Contents

I want to keep my electromechanical (accumulation) meter.  What can I do?

Click on Actions You Can Take and follow the tips.  These recommendations apply to people living in all states and territories.

I have a smart meter that I want removed.  How do I do this?

Your options depend on where you live in Australia.

NSW, QLD, SA, Tas, and the ACT

Electricity companies in the NSW, QLD, SA, Tas, and the ACT are bound by the provisions of the national Competition in Metering Rule.  The most recent version of this rule allows communications to be disabled.  Contact your retailer to arrange.  Disablement can be achieved by a variety of means.  You will need to shop around retailers to get the best price deal.  (At the time of writing, Origin was not charging a manual meter reading fee.)  The rule doesn’t provide for an electromechanical meter to be re-instated.

See this post on the rule: NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and ACT electricity customers allowed to have communications on ALREADY-INSTALLED smart meters TURNED OFF

NT and WA

Customers in the NT and WA are not subject to the national Competition in Metering Rule.  Contact your electricity company and request an electromechanical meter.  If this isn’t available, insist on the communications being disabled.  You might find it helpful to provide a letter of support from your doctor.

Victoria

The Victorian Labor government has delayed transitioning to the national Competition in Metering rule until 2021.  The existing Victorian Orders in Council covering the implementation of smart meters do not make provision for customers to revert to an electromechanical meter or for communications to be disabled.  Despite this, in isolated cases, power distributors have removed the communications module for customers.

Victorians need to continue to exert pressure on the state government to ensure smart meter issues remain front and centre!  See Actions You Can Take for suggestions on how to do this.

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My retailer is going to charge me an unfair amount to have the communications in my smart meter disabled.  They also intend to charge for the meter to be manually read.  I’m in one of the jurisdictions that falls under the national Competition in Metering rule.  What can I do?

Shop around and see what other electricity retailers are offering.  Origin customers have reported that it is not currently charging for manual meter reads.  You could also see if you would be able to limit an actual read by the electricity company to one visit per year, and supply your own interim reads, or have estimated reads, for the rest of the year.

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Is an electronic accumulation meter or a non-communicating smart meter as safe as an electromechanical (accumulation) meter?

Unfortunately, no.  Electronic meters and non-communicating smart meters don’t expose your family and the environment to pulsed radiofrequencies (specifically, microwaves).  However, all digital meters, like other common electronic items, can cause ‘dirty electricity’, that is, frequencies other than the 50 hertz AC that is normally on building wiring.  These high-frequency voltage transients travel along your household wiring and also to nearby neighbours’ homes.

See: Electrical pollution in your home: Why you can’t be healthy in a sick house

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I live in NSW, QLD, SA, Tas, or the ACT and my electricity retailer is insisting that I have to have my electromechanical meter changed over to a digital meter for ‘maintenance’ reasons.  What are my rights?

The national Competition in Metering rule doesn’t require electricity retailers to forewarn customers that they are undertaking a ‘maintenance replacement’ deployment.  However, customers must be given at least four business days’ notice of an interruption to power.  Electricity retailers must also have undertaken sample testing to support the need for the replacement of meters.  A type 4 meter, that is one with wireless communications enabled, will be installed, unless the customer has signalled their refusal.  If refusal has been made obvious, then a type 4A (non-communicating) digital meter is provided.  Your retailer’s metering coordinator should also have provided you with likely ongoing charges associated with a type 4A meter (i.e., if there will be a manual meter reading fee) and explained the similarities and differences between a type 4 and a type 4A meter.

Request your retailer to provide you with the results of the sample testing that support the need for the replacement and the details that indicate that it is necessary or appropriate, in accordance with good electricity industry practice, for the meter to be replaced to ensure compliance with the metering rules.  It would also be a good idea to shop around and see what other retailers are offering, and whether moving to another retailer would enable you to retain your existing meter.

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We have had astronomical bills since getting a smart meter.  What can we do?

This is a common problem.  See University Study Exposes Smart Meters Inflating Power Consumption Readings  First follow the steps in  What can I do if I have a complaint about my energy?  to try and resolve the matter.  If you’re not happy with the outcome that your energy company provides, contact your state or territory ombudsman (contact details are on the second page of the aforementioned document).  If the ombudsman doesn’t resolve your case to your satisfaction, be prepared to make a complaint about how it has done its job.  Ask for a copy of its internal complaints policy.  The link for Victoria’s Energy and Water Ombudsman policy is available here.

See Actions You Can Take for other tips on what you can do.  Going to the media can sometimes work wonders!

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My electricity smart meter has badly affected my health.  What can I do?

If you’re unable to have the communications disabled, ask to have the power of your meter reduced.  This can be done for meters that are in a mesh network.  It would be helpful to obtain a radiofrequency meter so that you can monitor the outcome.  As it is a dynamic process, the results may change over time.  For Victorians, the request for your meter to be powered down should be placed with your electricity distributor.

If your meter is in a mesh network, then it may be possible for you to implement measures that will lead to a reduction in the number of transmissions.  The ‘traffic profile’ of a meter in a mesh network is impacted by how effective its communication link is to the main network access point.  Meters that provide better communication paths ferry more data to and from other meters.  There is tremendous variation across meters.  This study, which included results for 32 meters in Victorian mesh networks (see p. 80), found that the average number of pulses (transmissions) per hour for these meters ranged from 98 pulses per hour up to 15,396 pulses per hour.

If your meter has an internal antenna and is in a metal meter box then the metal box will automatically block some of the microwave signal.  In consequence, if neighbouring mesh-networked meters are in wooden boxes or have an external antenna, then your mesh meter would be expected to host less traffic.  Similarly, nearby vegetation may attenuate (reduce) signals.  A metal cage or mesh (make sure that this isn’t in contact with the meter itself and that it doesn’t impede access) placed over a meter with an internal antenna will also block some of the transmissions.  This is because the wavelength of the radiofrequencies used for smart meters in a mesh network is approximately 30 cm, so not all of the waves will be able to penetrate the mesh.  This will result in your meter carrying less traffic than nearby meters that have more robust communications.  You should NOT attempt to impede the communication path of smart meters that are in a 3G or WiMAX network as you may significantly worsen the situation.

You might also be able to reduce the amount of radiofrequency radiation being directed into your home by putting in place protective measures (shielding paint, foil, metal mesh etc.) on the adjacent inside wall where the meter is situated.   However, this might achieve little if the main source of exposure in your case, is from a neighbour’s smart meter.

Implementing these measures will not mitigate ‘dirty electricity’ in your home as a result of having a smart meter.  Some people report that even if the communications have been disabled, they experience adverse health effects.

A building biologist can assess your situation, advise on strategies and take measurements to verify the effectiveness of any measures undertaken.

Ensure that where you sleep is as far as possible from a communicating smart meter (and at least 2 metres from a non-communicating meter).  Some sufferers have also resorted to turning off their electricity at the switchboard during sleeping hours or they have arranged for an electrician to install demand switches.  Demand switches automatically turn off the circuits when there is no electricity flowing.

You will also need to consider your exposure to other sources of electromagnetic fields, including cordless phones, mobile phones, WiFi and compact fluorescent lights.  SSMA’s EMR protection page provides an overview of strategies for reducing the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR).  As this page points out, the best strategy is to increase your distance from the source of EMR.

A Help Pack for people who are sensitive to electromagnetic fields is available here.

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My water utility plans to install a digital meter/data logger.  Is this safe?  If not, how can I prevent it?

Victorian utilities, in particular, have avoided referring to new wireless technology for water meters as being ‘smart’ due to the Victorian smart electricity meter fiasco.  However, even if your water service provider doesn’t use the term ‘smart’, if a digital meter or data logger is involved, that signifies that pulsed radiofrequencies in the microwave range are underpinning the technology. This has serious implications for the health of the community and the environment.  Although these meters are powered by battery, and therefore have a lower power output than electricity smart meters, the emissions can still cause biological damage.

Based on analysis by physicist Dr Ronald Powell, one would need to be at least 50 metres from a water smart meter that has a radiofrequency power output of 0.1 watt, in order to meet exposure limits proposed by the BioInitiative 2012 Report (Powell 2013, p. 10).

Even if your water utility hasn’t put a network into place that has 24/7 bi-directional collection of data (typically hourly), and instead plans to use drive-by vehicles to wirelessly collect data on a weekly basis (as is being trialled in one suburb by Melbourne’s South East Water), there are other issues to consider.  It is possible that the swap to a smart meter may cause increased lead in drinking water.  Deployment of smart water meters also facilitates the implementation of time-of-use pricing.

In order to prevent installation, ensure that you have a notice up that forbids this.  A PDF example is here.   An example in Word, if you wish to make changes to the notice, is here.  A sign that can be put up on a fence that covers all utilities is available here.  Make sure to laminate the signs before placing up, to protect them from the weather, and take a photo with the time/date stamp on, as proof.  It has been reported to SSMA that some people are also putting physical barriers on water meters but this may not be possible or may be difficult.  Plus, it’s essential that the meter can still be read and is accessible in the case of an emergency.

It is also imperative that you write to your water provider and state your refusal to host a digital water meter.  Victorian water companies are being rated by the Essential Services Commission on their customer engagement policies.  As many utilities claim that their customers support the move to digital meters, it is important that this is rebutted.  It is unlikely that smart water meter deployments would receive the same approval if the public was fully informed of the ramifications!

There is a precedent for customers to revert to a mechanical water meter.  See page 18 of Coliban Water final decision: 2018 Water Price Review in relation to issues raised about possible health impacts.  The Essential Services Commission of Victoria states that “Coliban Water has sought to address these concerns by developing a policy for the conditional opt-out from digital meter installation for customers with genuine health concerns and for the voluntary take-up of time-of-use tariffs”.

Also see Actions You Can Take for suggestions on how you can spread awareness!

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Do I need to do anything to prevent my gas meter being swapped to a smart meter?

It has been reported that ‘pulse ready’ gas meters are being installed.  The meter referred to in the aforementioned link is a Landis+Gyr Model 750 gas meter.  SSMA is not aware of these being activated at this point in time, other than at a business customer’s request, in order to access real-time gas flow data.  For instance, see this webpage belonging to Jemena.

It is imperative that customers take action NOW to prevent our gas meters also being turned into pulsed microwave radiation hotspots.  See Actions You Can Take for tips on how to do this.  Although these suggestions are in the context of electricity smart meters, they can also be applied to gas smart meters.  As has happened with electricity smart meters, there are reports of people protecting their meters.  They have used metal brackets or cages to do this.  (You must ensure that this doesn’t prevent the meter being read and it is also essential that the shutoff valve remains readily accessible.)  People are also putting up signs.  A PDF example is here.  An example in Word, if you wish to make changes to the sign, is here.  You can put up the  No Trespassing for Smart Meter Installers sign for fences.  Laminate the signs before placing up, to protect them from the weather, and take a photo with the time/date stamp on, as proof.  It is essential that you write to your gas provider and make it clear that you do NOT consent to having a pulse ready meter installed and object to the deployment of any kind of advanced metering applications utilising wireless technology.  Ensure that you retain proof that this letter has been sent.  Finally, make sure that you contact your State Minister for Energy and convey your views on this matter.  Your local MP and your upper house MPs also need to know.  The more awareness that you are able to spread, the better!

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