Smart Meters 

What exactly is a smart meter?

Smart meters (or advanced meters) are generally electricity meters which: 

  • can record electricity usage regularly
  • can be read remotely (it doesn’t require a visit by a meter reader)

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My electricity provider is planning to replace the meter at my house with a smart meter. Do I have any choice in the matter?

Check the contract you have with the provider. The contract probably says that they can replace your meter as they see fit. If you do not want your meter replaced by a smart meter, contact your provider to discuss your options.

Depending on the provider, you may not be able to opt out of the smart meter replacement without breaching your contract with them. In this case you could switch to another provider who does not have this requirement. However you should first check whether you would be liable for an early termination fee.

More information about smart meters and what your rights are in relation to them, is on the Electricity Authority website.

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    Will I have to pay for the installation of a smart meter?

    Generally you won't have to pay to have your electricity meter replaced by a smart meter if your electricity provider is rolling it out to all of their customers. Check with your provider if you want to be sure.

    If your provider doesn’t require you to install a smart meter but you just want to have one, then you will probably have to pay the cost of installing it and your provider will pay for the meter.

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    Are there any health or safety concerns with having a smart meter installed?

    A smart meter uses radio signals to communicate with your electricity provider, so you may be worried about the effects of radiofrequency radiation on the health of people in your household. The Ministry of Health is confident that the amount of radiation you would be exposed to from a smart meter, is well below the maximum levels for safety.

    There have been concerns both in New Zealand and overseas that smart meters might be more likely to catch fire. A Canadian study published in 2013 determined that smart meters are not a significant fire risk, compared to smoking or cooking.

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    Are there any privacy concerns with having a smart meter installed?

    Information about household electricity usage can be considered as personal information under the Privacy Act, if it can be linked to the person who has the account. In theory the information from a smart meter could be used to determine at what times the house is empty, for example.

    Your power company has to comply with the Privacy Act when dealing with your smart meter readings. This means that, for example, it must store your personal information securely, only use it for the purpose for which it is collected, and restrict its access to those who need it.

    You can read what the Privacy Commissioner says about it on their website.

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    If I have a smart meter installed will that guarantee that my power bills will accurately affect my usage?

    The main advantage of using a smart meter to record your power usage is that they are meant to allow for more accurate and more frequent readings. As a result your bills should more accurately reflect your usage over each day (across the high- and low-demand time periods) for each billing period.

    You may also be able to check your household’s usage at any time, if you are looking to reduce it.

    It is possible for your power bills to be higher soon after you have switched to using a smart meter. This generally can happen if: 

    • your old meter was not recording your usage correctly and the new meter has detected the error or
    • you’ve had a number of bills based on estimated usage, and the estimates were too low.

    If your new bills are unreasonably high, contact your electricity provider about it. You can read more about this on our Electricity costs page.

    You can also get help with deciphering your bills by reading our Understanding your power bill page or by visiting your local CAB.

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    Who is responsible for the cost of fixing my faulty electricity meter?

    Generally, the owner of the meter is responsible for repairing it (although you do need to take reasonable steps to protect it from damage), so the question is who owns the meter.

    Assuming you did not buy your own electricity meter, it could be owned by the line company, the electricity retailer or by an independent meter company. You can start by asking your electricity retailer.

    If you think it might need repairing because you suspect the readings are wrong, be aware that if you ask the retailer to have it inspected and they don’t find any fault with it, they are entitled to charge you for the inspection.