Modernising the Grid with Smart Meters

Updated: Apr 20

We get asked quite a lot about Smart Meters. This article covers why are they needed, what value they offer, and what it means to have one installed by Bright Spark Power.

Why are smart meters needed?

The short answer is… smart meters provide increased granularity of usage amounts, usage periods, and usage demand which is critical to understanding the energy needs of all types of consumers. This information us used to help generators, network operators and retailers, like us, to plan and ensure that the energy supply is there when you need it; to maintain and build a network as suitable infrastructure for the future; and to accurately bill customer usage.

The more detailed answer covers the important role that smart meters play in the modernisation of our electricity grid... A lot has changed in the way Australians use electricity today, with our needs and demands having shifted substantially compared to what was considered ‘normal’ in the early 1900’s when the original State operated electricity networks were constructed.

The National Energy Market was established 13th December 1998, and even in that short period of time, electricity usage and demands have evolved significantly. Since 1998 we have seen the innovation and proliferation of smart phones, highspeed broadband, intelligent home computing and internet connected devices, all of which are critically dependant on stable, secure, and always available electricity. The increasing uptake of innovations like residential solar, electric vehicles, and local storage batteries will continue to change the way we use the electricity grid, how it works, and what we demand from it.

As our electricity needs continue to change, the electricity grid must modernise and change with them. There are many factors to modernising the grid, however a key attribute is obtaining a better understanding and visibility of how much (kWh), and when (Time) we use electricity, and at what demand (KV or KW) we have for that electricity. To obtain this information, the electricity grid requires some more ‘smarts’, which comes in the form of smart meters.

Smart meters provide a vastly increased level of detail on the operation of the electricity grid that has traditionally not existed, resulting in a shift away from macro estimation and inferred behaviour to an environment of data driven decision making. This transition is tantamount to a well understood and managed electricity grid, supported by actual data and evidence. Smart meters are a critical element to the modernisation of the grid that is improved and evolved to better fit the electricity demands of today and built for tomorrow.

What is different about Smart Meters for Home and Business Electricity?

To the end user, there are a few differences between a smart meter and a traditional (basic) meter installed at your premise. The biggest benefit for both you and us here at Bright Spark Power, is the remote read function. Once a smart meter is installed and in a mobile serviceable area, we are able to receive remote readings of your electricity use. This means we can say goodbye to estimated reads, which is great as we all much prefer actual usage readings.

The next difference for you as the user is obtaining increased visibility of when you are using your electricity, and in what volume. Smart meters generally provide 48x 30-minute usage increments per day (sometimes the increment is 15 minutes). This allows us to provide you a clearer view of how many kWh of electricity is being used in each 30-minute period.

For some customers, there is a key difference that may apply depending on your distribution region, which is the increased choice in electricity plan. This benefit only applies in certain scenarios and regions, generally where a basic meter (traditional meter) is currently in use which contributes to a higher wholesale supply cost. Where these scenarios occur, we will engage with you to discuss the transfer to a smart meter at no cost to you, so that we can switch your service to the most appropriate plan for you.

Lastly, the installation of a smart meter supports the installation of technology such as local solar and local battery storage. They enable your premise to be future proofed for the installation of these technologies and provide support for other 'future' technologies, for example electric cars.

When a Smart Meter is installed by Bright Spark Power, does it change your electricity plan?

If you are already a customer of Bright Spark Power, and there is either voluntary option to replace your existing meter with a smart meter, or a necessary replacement due to a faulty meter or the meter end of life, there will be no change to your Bright Spark Power Electricity Plan.

There are rare occasions where the installation of a smart meter is required for a premises to be serviceable for a Bright Spark Power plan. This is the only scenario where your plan may be dependent on the installation of a smart meter, which we will discuss with you as part your decision to switch to Bright Spark Power.

Are there any restrictions that would prevent me from having a Smart Meter installed?

As with most things, there are some minimum requirements that need to be met to support the installation of a smart meter at your premises.

  1. Is there enough room for the smart meter? Smart meters have the benefit of being able to communicate remotely with the wholesale electricity market participants, however, this comes at the cost of being larger in size when compared to the older basic meters. This does mean that when a smart meter is to be installed at your premises, the existing meter distribution box, meter panel, or meter distribution cupboard needs to have the physical space to handle the larger meter.

  2. Is the location safe and secure? The location of the Smart Meter must be safe for the meter installation technician on the day of installation, with no risk of aggressive or harmful animals. However, this also extends to the safety of the customer and the smart meter as well. The meter distribution box and panel is required to be in good condition, with no broken or rusted doors, hinges, panels, and no asbestos present. This is critical to make sure the installation technician, customer, and equipment is not at risk of injury or damage.

  3. Are other services going to be impacted by the change? In older multi-premise environments, the electricity supply can occasionally be shared feed-in or running through a shared fuse/circuit breaker. In these situations, there is a need to complete some local electrical work

The Bright Spark Power team have a variety of tools and a detailed guide to help you determine whether your home or business is Smart Meter Ready. If you are looking to upgrade to the benefits of a smart meter, give us a call on 1300 010 277


Where can you go for more information on Smart Meters?

The Australian Energy Regulator has further reading on smart meters.