An electricity meter keeps track of how much power is being used at your property.
Types of meters
Traditionally, houses had a standard (non-smart) meter. A meter reader came to your house to read your meter and record how much electricity you had used since it was last read. Today, most households have a smart meter.
There are three main types of meters used in Aotearoa:
- Smart meters - record half-hourly power use electronically and transmit this using cellular reception to your power company.
- 'Non-smart' or non-communicating meters - work the same as smart meters, but are read manually. They are used in locations where there may be no or little cell phone reception.
- Analogue or 'legacy' meters - record power consumption mechanically and are read manually. There are very few of these meters still in use.
Smart meters record half-hourly power use and provide automatic meter readings to power companies. Smart meters offer several benefits:
- Near real-time information on your power use - you can better understand when your power use could be more efficient.
- Accurate billing instead of estimated billing - smart meters send your power company more granular data, so you only pay for what you use.
- Access to a broader range of power plans - you can access time-of-use power plans with a ‘free hour of power’ or reduced rates during the night.
Smart meters are a tool that supports the electricity industry in New Zealand's transition to a cleaner, more flexible energy system. For example, they enable power companies to offer tariffs that reduce charges if power is used when it is cheaper for them to buy it on the wholesale market. Or, when it is cheaper to supply it on a sunny or windy day when there is more electricity generated from wind turbines or solar technologies.
Am I required to have a smart meter?
It's not a legal requirement to have a smart meter in New Zealand. You can find out if you have a smart meter, by using Your meter.
Some power companies require you to have a smart meter to be on certain power plans.
If you don't have a smart meter and would like one, contact your power company to see if you can get one installed and if there is a cost involved.
Retailers are required to ensure that there is an accurate meter in your home. Your retailer may therefore need to replace or recertify the meters at your property to ensure they are still fit for purpose. Your retailer may require access to your meters from time to time to carry out this work.
What happens to my data?
Your data is always encrypted and undecipherable when it’s in transit on both the cell phone and radio networks.
The Electricity Industry Participation Code 2010 requires that your power company keeps your consumption data secure.
Your power company is bound by the Privacy Act 1993. This means that your data cannot be connected to your name or address. It is encrypted when it is sent from your meter to your power company.
Do smart meters pose a risk to my health?
No, there is no established evidence that smart meters pose a health risk. Smart meters operate using the same technology as your cell phone. Smart meters:
- transmit very infrequently, for only a few minutes each day
- use very low power, similar to a WiFi router
- are mostly located outside, making the radio signal levels very low indoors.
Exposures to radiofrequency radiation from a smart meter are very low. The maximum exposure has been measured at one five hundredth of the allowed limit for New Zealand. These standards are set by the Ministry of Health in the Interagency Ministerial report on radio frequency fields.
Where can I get more information on smart meters?
You should first contact your retailer if you want more information on smart meters. They will know about their own metering replacement programme, if and why you may need your meter replaced, and your contractual obligations with them.
If you are unsatisfied with the response from your retailer about smart meter, you can contact Utilities Disputes. They provide a free, independent and fair utilities dispute resolution service.