SITE EDITOR’S NOTE August 20: I have received some feedback on this article, which stated, in part, that most “smart” meters in NZ do not contain ZigBee chips. (See below.) The post below in its original version did state that “not all” smart meters in NZ contain ZigBees; however, for the sake of clarity I have re-edited the post to make it clear that most smart meters in NZ do not contain ZigBees.
I will write a follow-up post in response to other comments as soon as I can.
SITE EDITOR’S NOTE August 28: I have followed up on other criticisms of this post and found out that it is not mandatory for heat pumps to have ZigBees or “demand response functionality” in NZ (despite the statements on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; see below for the reference.) However, there are heat pumps that are registered as being for suitable for use in NZ and Australia that do have “demand response functionality”. This “demand response functionality” allows for the heat pumps to be turned down to their lowest setting, rather than be turned off.
I will be writing a new post that explores these issues and give references so that you can find out whether your heat pump is one that may be able to be controlled remotely by your electricity company in a new post as as soon as I have time. In the meantime, I have added Editor’s notes to the post below to correct the errors. If you would like to be notified when the new post has been written, please join the email list at www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz.
Who controls your heat pump…You?…Or your electricity company?
Do you have a heat pump in your home? I bet you appreciate its reliable warmth, especially when NZ is in the grip of a southerly that has come straight up from the Antarctic.
However, if you have a “smart meter” in or on your home, don’t count on always being able to enjoy that wonderful warmth….even if you always pay your bill on time.
Why not? Because your electricity or lines company may be able to turn off your heat pump remotely. [Ed note: Actually the electricity or lines company may be able to turn your heat pump down, rather than shut it off altogether. See Ed note of August 28, above.]
Smart meters which are fitted with a ZigBee communications chip have the ability to “talk” to “smart” appliances – and since 2011, according to a document on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment heat pumps in NZ have been required to be “smart”.* [Ed note: There is actually no such requirement at this stage, despite the statement on the website of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; see Ed note of August 28, above].
Not all smart meters in NZ contain ZigBee chips at this point; in fact, to the best of my knowledge most smart meters that have been installed to date here do not contain ZigBee chips.
However, the “smart boxes” being rolled out by WEL Networks Ltd in the Waikato and the Landis+Gyr E350 series smart meters being rolled out by Network Tasman Ltd, Counties Power and some other companies that are part of the SmartCo consortium do contain ZigBees. (The ZigBees are part of the Silver Spring model 454 Network Interface Card (NIC) which the meters use to send information back to the lines company and/or electricity retailer. The default setting of the ZigBee part of the Network Interface Card is claimed to be “off”. However, it may only be a matter of time before the ZigBee is turned on. I have no information regarding how the ZigBee can be turned on; it is possible this may be able to be done remotely.)
The Labour party would like to see all smart meters fitted with ZigBees: see http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/uncategorized/labour-party-2014-election-questionnaire/
(Please note that the Labour party is one of many parties that support smart meters in general; see the 2014 Election Questionnaire from www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz if you want to learn about other parties that support smart meters http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/category/2014-election-questionnaire/.
If you have a smart meter that contains a ZigBee, your power or lines company may therefore potentially be able to switch off your heat pump remotely. [Ed note: Actually the electricity or lines company may be able to turn your heat pump down, rather than shut it off altogether. See Ed note of August 28, above.] Of course it’s done in the name of managing energy better, of course; but what may be great for your lines company may not be so wonderful for you. (Goodbye cosy warmth.)
If you do not yet have a smart meter, count yourself lucky; you control your appliances; your lines or electricity company cannot switch them off [or otherwise interfere with their operation] when you least expect it – or most need them.
Please see this link for information on how to keep your home “smart meter”-free. http://www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz/faqs/how-to-avoid-getting-a-smart-meter/ )
PS: Interested in learning how smart meters can affect your electricity bills? Read this post:
*According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s “Analysis of submissions on Smart meters: How households and the environment can benefit Briefing for Commerce Committee: “From 2011 in New Zealand, all new heat-pumps will be “smart”. New heat pumps will be required by the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to have “demand response functionality”. This means they will be able to “talk to” a HAN. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is looking at extending this requirement to more appliances.”
(NB: Even if there is no “smart meter” in the home, appliances which contain the ZigBee communications unit may still produce microwave radiation at in an attempt to communicate with a non-existent “smart meter”, so if buying new appliances, it is prudent to avoid those that are marketed as being “smart” if you do not want to unnecessarily expose yourself to RFR in the microwave range.)