Smart meters are plain dumb

New Zealand has some of the dumbest electricity 'smart' meters in the world, says Labour’s Energy spokesperson David Shearer.

“Imagine being able to set washing machines, dryers, dishwashers to turn on in the middle of the night when power is cheap. Or being able to see and modify second, by every second, electricity usage in the home on a computer, TV, smart phone. That was the real possibility five years ago when smart electricity meters began to be installed.

“Indeed, in a speech in 2009, Gerry Brownlee, then Energy Minister, boasted about the wonderful future that lay ahead for consumers.

“But the government failed to set minimum standards for smart meters, unlike the rest of the world. Instead, it argued the market would take care of setting standards.

“As a result successive ministers including current Minister of Energy Simon Bridges, have deprived more than one million Kiwi households, where the dumb meters have been installed, that wonderful opportunity.  

“With Kiwis programming their power usage for other, cheaper times of the day, electricity peaks that occur in the evening would no longer spike upwards.

“Less demand at the peaks reduces the need to switch on expensive gas fired ‘peaker’ plants – from which electricity companies make huge profits. And, the less gas used for electricity generation means lower carbon emissions.

“For just $20 extra cost, according to the Commissioner for the Environment, smart meters could have included a chip that would allow for consumer vastly more options. To retrofit an already installed ‘smart meter’ will cost $175.

“Countries, such as Australia, UK and most of the OECD have set minimum standards for smart meters.  A Labour led Government will set the standard for smart meters so that Kiwis get the benefit.

“Right now the real winners are the power companies. They receive excellent data, every 30 minutes, from more than one million smart meters installed in households across New Zealand about each household’s electricity use. But having consumers  conserve power, economise or take control over their power use is not great for their business,” says David Shearer.