Are they smart or are they a dumb idea… Or is it an inevitable sign of progress?
The State Government is calling on all householders to replace our existing energy meters with digital smart meters allowing consumers to monitor their own usage.
Of course progress comes at a cost… In Victoria where the change-over has been compulsory, some householders have not just objected to that upfront fee but to something more insidious.
Margaret Shepherd suffers from an acute sensitivity to bright lights brought on, she says, by the electro-magnetic pulses of her smart meter at her previous home in country Victoria.
“The smart meter did affect my health, overall it made me a lot more sensitive to glare, I had heart palpitations, I had headaches, I had tinnitus and I just felt unwell,” says Margaret.
Despite her repeated pleas to have it removed the power company wouldn't budge because of the government's policy.
So after just 12 months the disabled pensioner sold her home and moved to the smart meter safe haven, the Riverland.
“I had put $20k worth of improvements into the house, I lost that, all of that, when I moved, but I was just desperate to get out,” says Margaret.
Mark Florio from the lobby group ‘Stop Smart Meters Australia’ says it's not just a health issue but a wealth issue.
He claims on average bills have increased by up to 20 percent because the devices consume more power when transmitting into your home and there's also a hefty annual fee to rent them.
“The cost is about $150 a year so why should we as a consumer pay for a device which 1 we don't want or need but also which doesn't belong to us. Before we were just paying electricity usage now we're actually paying for a meter so it just doesn't make sense. Why are we subsidizing these multi-national companies?” asks Mark.
…And then there's the question of privacy.
The San Francisco Chronicles revealed that California's utilities last year disclosed the energy use records and other personal information of thousands of customers to agencies within the US Government.
The news that power companies were on-selling information gleaned from smart meters sparked outrage in the United States.
This product will sit next to your television and be capable of eaves dropping on your conversations while you're watching tv,” claims Mike Mitcham in an online statement…. Another says… Make no mistake we have the power to spy on your household through your appliances…”
So in South Australia the system will be introduced within 12 months… and ultimately it's up to the consumer to make the decision or when their old meter conks out.
“Most of the problems like the heart palpitations, as soon as I moved to South Australia they stopped,” says Margaret.
Margaret health may be on the mend but her frustration hasn't diminished... She wants the government to scrap the scheme altogether.