An elderly woman who knows how to use device for smart meters

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a digital device with a two-way communication system that measures when and how much electricity you use. It records the energy you use in at least 30-minute intervals and sends the information to your retailer daily. Your retailer can read the meter remotely, without the need for a meter reader to visit your property.

Smart meters are also known as digital meters or advanced meters. They are different from interval meters, which also record electricity usage in intervals but do not have a communication system. Interval meters require manual reading or a separate device to send data to the retailer.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters use wireless networks to communicate with your retailer and other devices, such as in-home displays or mobile apps. These devices can show you your real-time energy consumption, cost, and environmental impact. You can also access this information online through your retailer’s website or portal.

Smart meters can also communicate with other smart devices in your home, such as solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles, or smart appliances. This can help you optimise your energy usage, storage, and export and participate in demand response programs that reward you for reducing or shifting your electricity demand during peak times.

What are the benefits of smart meters?

Smart meters offer many benefits for consumers, retailers, and the electricity system as a whole. Some of the benefits include:

  • More accurate billing: Smart meters eliminate the need for estimated bills based on your previous usage or average usage in your area. You will only pay for the electricity you actually use, and you will receive more frequent and detailed bills that show your usage patterns and costs.

  • More choice and control: Smart meters enable you to access your energy data in real time and see how your behaviour affects your electricity consumption and cost. You can use this information to adjust your usage habits, switch to a better energy plan, or choose a different tariff structure that suits your needs. For example, you can opt for a time-of-use tariff that charges different rates depending on the time of day or day of the week or a demand tariff that charges based on your peak demand during a billing period.

  • More innovation and competition: Smart meters allow retailers to offer you more innovative products and services, such as energy management apps, online portals, prepaid plans, flexible payment options, rewards programs, or bundled offers with other services. You can compare these offers using online tools and find the best deal for you.

  • More reliability and efficiency: Smart meters help distributors detect and fix outages more quickly, monitor the quality of your electricity supply, and manage the network more efficiently. They also support the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and batteries, into the grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How can I get a smart meter?

If you live in Victoria, you probably already have a smart meter installed as part of the state-wide rollout that started in 2009 and finished in 2013. If you live in any other state or territory, you can get a smart meter in one of the following ways:

  • Contact CovaU Energy and ask for an upgrade: We can offer you a product or service that requires a smart meter installation, such as a solar feed-in tariff or a time-of-use tariff. You can also request an upgrade if you want to access the benefits of smart metering. We will arrange the installation with your distributor or an accredited metering provider.

  • Replace your faulty or old meter: If your current meter is faulty or at the end of its life and needs replacing, you will automatically get a smart meter as part of the Power of Choice reforms that came into effect in December 2017. These reforms aim to accelerate the rollout of smart meters across Australia by giving consumers more choice and control over their energy services.

  • Build or renovate your property: If you are building a new property or renovating an existing one, you will need to install a smart meter as part of the electrical wiring process. You can contact your retailer or an accredited electrician to organise the installation.

How much does a smart meter cost?

The cost of installing a smart meter depends on several factors, such as your location, retailer, distributor, and metering provider. Some retailers may take various ways to how they charge you for a new meter. They may charge you a lump sum upfront, a monthly fee over a period of time, or nothing at all. The installation cost may also be included in your energy plan or contract.

According to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), the average cost of installing a smart meter in 2020 was $226. However, this cost may vary depending on the complexity and duration of the installation, the type and model of the meter, and the travel and labour costs of the installer.

You can contact CovaU Energy and any other retailers to compare what offers are available in your location and how much they charge for a smart meter installation. You can also use online comparison tools like Energy Made Easy or Victorian Energy Compare to find the best energy plan for you.

SourcesAustralian Energy RegulatorSelectraNSW GovernmentAEMCABC News