Smart Meters

What is a Smart Meter?

“Smart Meters” (sometimes referred to as “Advanced metering infrastructure”) are electricity meters which transmit information about electricity consumption to the supplier through a radio link (rather than requiring someone to come round and read the meter).  In the future, some types of smart meter may also be able to communicate with compatible home appliances. 

How do Smart Meters work?

Smart meters have a small radio transmitter which transmits to a nearby relay point.  Two systems are used in New Zealand:  
  • One uses the cellphone network, and normally sends data only once per day, during the night.  (There may be occasional brief transmissions at other times in order to stay registered on the cellphone network.) 
  • The other uses “mesh networks” in which data may be sent directly from the meter to the relay point, or it may be passed on to the relay point via one or more other meters in the same network. 
Can the radio transmissions from a Smart Meter affect health?

Measurements in New Zealand and overseas show that exposures to the radio signals from Smart Meters are tiny fractions of the limits recommended by the Ministry of Health.  There are several reasons for this: 
  • The transmitters operate at low power
  • Most of the time the transmitter is off (typically they transmit for less than five minutes per day)
  • Meters are located outside the house (but even if they are inside, exposures are well below recommended limits).
Don't some people think that the radio signals from Smart Meters could cause cancer, or symptoms such as headaches, fatigue or electrosensitivity?

While some research suggests that people who use cellphones (which are also radio transmitters) more than 30 minutes per day may have an increased risk of brain tumours, it is far from certain that there really is a cause and effect relationship. The same research does not suggest any risks from exposures as low, or as brief, as those from Smart Meters.  
Careful investigations have found that no other symptoms are produced by such low exposures.
Where can I find more information?

Last updated: 16 May 2018