Editor’s note: The following article was contributed by Whangarei journalist Clare Swinney. The photograph of the meter was supplied by Mr. Priestly.
Huge bill at marae after smart meter installation
Mervyn Priestley, the former Treasurer of the Parapara Marae in Taipa, Northland was shocked when he saw the power bill for the month of April 2015, which had been debited from the marae bank account. It was a humongous $2042.87 and far higher than any of the power bills the marae had received before. The bills were normally were around $350, sometimes far less he said.
Consequently, he first contacted their power company to discuss the reason for the huge bill and told them that there must be a mistake. The lady he spoke to told him that a smart meter is never wrong. Mervyn said that that was the first time he had ever heard of a smart meter, as they had not been told a smart meter was going to be installed and not asked if they wanted one at the marae. He said: “I couldn’t understand how the power bill could have been so high, as we had not had any bookings that month. It should have been low.”
Not getting anywhere with this woman who was claiming that smart meters were faultless, Mervyn asked to talk to the supervisor. Mervyn said: “I told the supervisor that if someone on the marae committee saw this bill of $2042.87 they could have a heart attack. I knew it could not be right, as I kept a close eye on things at the marae. Thankfully, he listened to me and was reasonable. I asked him how the smart meters work and he said that they used a cell phone network. That’s when I knew the fault was at their end, as there was no cell phone coverage at the marae and when I told him this, he started taking me seriously. It was an estimate, not a real reading they had billed the marae for. Before the smart meter was installed, we were used to having two estimates and had one actual reading of the analogue meter. They did not offer to reimburse the marae for overcharging us for power. I had to ask for the money to be credited back to the marae’s bank account, as they wanted to keep it in their account. Eventually $1628 was credited. It was a stressful time for me and I did doubt myself when I was told that a smart meter is never wrong.”
Ed note: Based on the photo supplied, the information given to Mr. Priestly about the smart meter working through the cellular phone network may not have been correct. The type of smart meter installed at the marae is a Landis+Gyr E350 series smart meter. In NZ, this type of meter often contains a Silver Spring communication model 454 Network Interface Card (NIC) package that contains a modem and a ZigBee chip. This communications package is designed to work as part of a mesh system to relay wireless data from smart meter to smart meter and thereon to a central collection point. If a smart meter in a mesh network is too far away from another smart meter of the same type (or if there is some sort of dense structure or landscape feature such as a substantial mound of earth between the mesh network smart meters) its signal may not be picked up by the neighbouring meter.
Meters in a mesh network can produce pulses of RF more frequently than other types of smart meters and www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz has received reports of adverse health effects from people with Landis-Gyr smart meters at their homes.
You can read more about Landis+Gyr smart meters at the links below on www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz
A smart meter of the type installed at the marae could also potentially mean that you lose control over your heat pump, if you have one; please see this LINK for details.
Reported Health Effects with this Type of Smart Meter (with the Silver Spring communication package
Smart meters are not compulsory in NZ
Please note that it is NOT compulsory to have a smart meter in NZ and to learn how people are refusing to have one installed, please see this LINK. Please notethat it seems to be quite common for smart meters to be installed without prior notification, so if you still have an analogue meter and want to keep it, it would be prudent to take steps to prevent a smart meter installation NOW.
Resources to help you refuse a smart meter, including bilingual Te Reo/English options may be found at this LINK of www.stopsmartmeters.org.nz
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