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The truth about real-time 'smart' meters


The truth about real-time ‘smart’ meters

"Meters put power bills up smartly” was headlined in the Dominion Post on the 5 January.

The article highlighted the issue that some 4500 Christchurch customers had been advised that their electricity “tariffs would increase” after the new meters were installed, because they had been undercharged in the past.

The companies say that the original meters can slow down as they get older which means they do not accurately record a household’s electricity use. Power companies may get enough extra revenue from accurate metering (i.e. not undercharging customers) to pay much of the cost of the new meter. Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, asked “is this the real reason retailers are rushing to get so-called smart meters in New Zealand homes?” The answer is yes: they said so, even before the program began.

No company spokesperson was willing to say how many meters were found to be running slow, or how much money was undercharged. This is of real pubic interest. The Electricity Commission should require all companies to disclose it. Companies were, however, refunding those who had been found to be overcharged, and writing off the cost of those who had been undercharged.

The greatest benefit of real-time (“smart”) meters would be in giving the householder real-time information of what they are paying for their electricity. If they forget to turn a heater off, or if a hot water tap starts dripping, they are likely to notice and could deal with it right away. They would soon learn to draw the curtains on a cold winter night. It’s these little daily actions that can make the biggest difference in reducing electricity bills.

A point of interest is that the Electricity Commission does not support household display of real-time information through wireless technology, saying that computer hackers could capture that information, or even use it to steal money.

That’s not good enough.

There’s a technology for sending that information from the meter to a household display using the house wiring instead of wireless technology.  Why isn’t the Commission investigating that?

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