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Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

Digital meters

Digital meters (also known as advanced meters or smart meters) are electricity meters which can record electricity consumption in 30-minute intervals. They also feature wireless communications for remote reading of electricity consumption and other services.

Digital meters are used extensively throughout the world and have been used in Australia for about 20 years by large electricity customers.

Electricity retailers are now offering digital meters to residential and small business customers in Queensland.

Your electricity retailer will be able to provide you with more information.

Advantages of digital meters

Digital meters can help you:

  • better understand your electricity consumption patterns
  • take advantage of a wider range of new electricity products and services
  • better manage your usage.

They enable:

  • accurate and up-to-date information on usage patterns through online platforms and mobile apps
  • smaller, more frequent bills based on actual consumption
  • faster switching between retailers
  • faster service to customers when making billing enquiries or transferring accounts when moving premise
  • faster network fault detection and restoration of supply.

Changes to electricity metering

Most current electricity metering used in Queensland is basic accumulation metering which records electricity consumption as a simple running total, like the odometer on a car. This type of metering is provided by electricity distributors.

However, a transition is underway to make digital meters the standard meter used for all customers.

New rules for electricity metering came into effect throughout the National Electricity Market on 1 December 2017. This includes Queensland (but excludes the off-grid areas in regional Queensland (i.e. the Mt. Isa–Cloncurry network, Weipa and Ergon Energy’s remote communities).

Under the new rules, all new and replacement electricity meters installed in homes and some small businesses will be digital meters.

A new digital meter will be installed in the following circumstances:

  • new connections (e.g. new homes)
  • replacement of old or faulty meters
  • to support a customer’s chosen electricity product (e.g. a new tariff or installation of a solar PV system)
  • replacement of working meters as part of a retailer’s digital meter roll-out.

The new rules also transfer the responsibility for electricity metering for residential and small business customers from electricity distributors to electricity retailers. This means that when a new digital meter is required, your electricity retailer becomes responsible for all aspects of the meter. This includes arranging the safe installation of the meter, reading of electricity consumption, and its operation and maintenance.

This change will have no effect on the quality of your electricity supply. It is the next stage in a transition which has been underway for several years.

In the meantime, you do not need to do anything.

Existing accumulation meters can remain in use at your premises until:

  • you accept an offer from a retailer to install a digital meter
  • you choose an electricity product which requires a digital meter
  • the meter needs replacement (e.g. due to fault or age).

Your electricity retailer will be able to provide you with more information.

Installing a digital meter

When a new digital meter is required, your electricity retailer will be responsible for managing the installation process and will be your contact point for questions.

Digital meters may only be installed by licensed and qualified electricians acting on behalf of your electricity retailer, and in accordance with relevant electrical safety standards.

For new connections, the new meter will be installed as part of the building process.

For replacements of existing meters, old meters will be removed by the installer and returned to the electricity distributor (e.g. Energex, Ergon Energy). If this does not occur, you should contact your retailer.

If you experience any problems with your meter, or your electricity service, you should contact your retailer immediately.

Note that the wiring inside the house, the switchboard and the meter enclosure/box remains the responsibility of the homeowner. If you experience issues with these, you should contact a licenced electrical contractor.

Customer choice

Digital meters are expected to offer a range of benefits to customers. However, if you do not wish to receive a new digital meter, there are a number of opt-out options available.

You may refuse an offer from a retailer to replace a working accumulation meter with a digital meter. You should follow the instructions detailed in the offer from your retailer to advise your refusal. Make sure you send your refusal to your retailer before the last opt-out date specified in the notice.

In situations where a new meter is required (e.g. new connections or replacements due to age or fault), you cannot refuse the installation of a digital meter. However, you may elect to have the remote communications disabled. This means the digital meter will operate in much same way as the meter it replaced and electricity consumption data must be collected manually by a meter reader.

Charges for digital metering services

If your retailer proposes to replace a working meter, they are legally required to inform you of any upfront charges for the installation of a digital meter and what the charges will be.

If you are unsure, ask your retailer for more details before the installation of a new meter.

Electricity tariffs

Digital meters can support a range of new electricity products and services, including new tariffs. However, these new products and services are not compulsory and will be available on a voluntary basis (e.g. customers with digital meters will not be forced onto time-of-use tariffs).

The detailed information on your electricity usage patterns from a digital meter will help you compare options that might save you money on your electricity bill (e.g. whether to switch to an alternative tariff, and/or change your usage patterns).

Your electricity retailer will be able to explain the features of their products and services. You should check the terms of your electricity contract and ask for help if you don’t understand.

New billing arrangements

Digital meters enable retailers to offer different billing methods which can be tailored to each customer. However, these will be optional.

You may select more frequent billing options (e.g. monthly or fortnightly) which may assist you with budgeting. Unlike existing monthly billing products, which are based on estimates, these bills will be based on your actual consumption data transmitted daily from the digital meter.

Retailers may also offer customers with digital meters the ability to select their preferred billing date as retailers are not bound by manual meter reading cycles.

Your electricity retailer will be able to provide you with more information.

Customer rights and protections

Digital meters do not affect your consumer rights or existing customer protections. You will continue to have access to Queensland Government energy concessions and rebates, retailer hardship programs, payment plans, and other legislated customer protection measures.

If you have any concerns, you should contact your retailer.

If you are not satisfied with their response, you can refer your complaint to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland or free call 1800 OMBUDS (1800 662 837).

Energy Savvy Families program: digital meters for low income regional residents

The Energy Savvy Families program provides digital meters to eligible low-income families in regional Queensland to help them gain a greater understanding of when and how they use their electricity. This is a combined initiative of Ergon Energy Retail, Queensland Council of Social Service, CitySmart and the Queensland Government.

The digital meters allow low-income households to pay their electricity bills in smaller, more manageable monthly amounts rather than receiving quarterly bills. This, combined with local community support and educational resources, helps families understand when and how they are using electricity and empowers them to manage their electricity bills.

The first phase of the program has seen the free installation of digital meters in 5,500 homes in 10 regional towns across Queensland. This phase was delivered by securing $5.5 million in funding from State Infrastructure Fund’s $180 million Significant Regional Infrastructure Projects Program (SRIPP).

A further $4 million has been invested under the Affordable Energy Plan to extend the program to a further 4,000 low income households. The new program will start in early 2018.

Privacy and data security

Digital meters only record and store electricity use data which is transmitted daily to the retailer’s systems via a secure encrypted link. Customer details (e.g. names and addresses) are not stored in the meter.

Electricity retailers have confirmed that their digital electricity meters are equipped with advanced security features (e.g. password protection and digital encryption) to prevent unauthorised access and maintain data security. Digital meters are not connected to the internet.

The data collected and transmitted by digital meters is secure and confidential and is subject to the requirements of Australian privacy law.

Meter safety

Digital meters are manufactured to comply with Australian and international safety standards and must be approved by the Australian Government’s National Measurement Institute before they can be used in Australia.

Digital meters can only be installed by licenced and qualified electricians acting on behalf of your electricity retailer, and in accordance with relevant electrical safety standards.

Health impacts

All digital meters installed in Queensland must comply with electromagnetic exposure limits developed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). The same exposure limits apply to commonly used items like mobile phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers and baby monitors.

According to ARPANSA, there is no established scientific evidence that the low level of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF EMR) exposure from digital meters causes any health effects, including symptoms of ill health communicated by some people.

The RF EMR emissions from digital meters are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The ACMA’s regulatory arrangements require wireless devices, including digital meters, to comply with the exposure limits in the ARPANSA RF Standard.

Find out more

Last updated:
20 December 2017
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