'Smart meters' a dumb idea, says community forum

Fifty people attended a meeting in Coburg on October 6 to protest against the installation of "smart meters" by electricity distribution companies in Victoria. Two similar meetings had already been held in nearby Brunswick.

The meters enable remote reading of electricity use every half hour, remote connection and disconnection of electricity, and differential charging at different times of the day, among other functions.

Sonja Rutherford told the meeting that there are several problems with the meters. The ones used in Victoria send information and receive instructions via radio waves, sent either to a tower or to a collector on poles in the street. The radio waves (also known as electromagnetic radiation or EMR) can cause health problems, including an increased risk of cancer and problems for individuals who are particularly sensitive to EMR.

Rutherford said there have also been a series of fires due to EMR generating electric currents in house wiring.

There are also privacy issues. Data on electricity use at different times of the day can be legally provided to government agencies and debt collectors. There is also the possiblity of people hacking into the system communications.

Legislation requiring customers to pay the cost of installing the meters was adopted by the previous Labor state government and retained by the current Liberal government. Rutherford urged people in houses where the new meters have not yet been installed to lock up their old meters and attach a notice refusing installation of the new meters.

A local campaign group was set up for the Moreland area, which includes Brunswick and Coburg. There is a Victoria-wide coalition of local groups which can be contacted at stopsmartmeters.com.au.


The fear of smart meters discussed here is quite irrational. You would be just as well (or poorly) advised to fear having a wi-fi internet at home, using a mobile phone, or to fear wind turbines for that matter.

Energy companies may well use smart meters to impose higher energy tarriffs on households, under time-of-use metering. This is ostensibly to provide an incentive for conserving energy and prevent expensive energy use peaks, but will disproportionately hit vulnerable people who can't easily shift their peak energy use to another time - pensioners, single mums and so on who are generally at home and using appliances in the 2pm-8pm time slot.

There are also potentially good things about smart meters, such as the ability of households to monitor and reduce their own energy use, if the smart meters are configured in a way that allows it (and energy utilities could find that not in their interest to facilitate!).

Unfortunately the tin-foil hat brigade are distracting us from these more real and important issues. There are even companies cashing in on the scare campaign selling EMR-shielding paint. Dodgy science, dodgy campaign and dodgy business I reckon.

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