Smart Meters


Smart Meters are digital devices installed outside of homes that provide data on electricity, water or gas consumption to the consumer and to the service provider at set intervals.

Smart meters allow continuous measurement of energy consumption and additional electrical parameters, information storage and two way communication.

Data is transferred from the smart meter in two possible ways:

  1. Wirelessly, by sending radio wave frequency signals via cellular communication networks, internet networks or Wi-Fi.
  2. Using existing wired networks belonging to the electric grid, telephone, etc.

This article only deals with the wireless smart meter.



The smart meter is considered a green technology, with significant environmental advantages. The smart electricity meter enables optimal consumption management and energy efficiency. The meter enables load reduction during maximum consumption times and therefore helps reduce short term energy usage and level of greenhouse gas emission.

Reduction of energy use due to smart meter monitoring may have many health advantages, like cleaner air that will cause reduction in morbidity related to air pollution due to electricity production (for example asthma, lung diseases and additional respiratory problems).

Additional advantages of the smart meter are remote limitation of grid loads, remote consumption readings, availability of consumer information, reduction in operational costs and improved control capacity and location of problems. In addition, the use of smart meters also enables cost reductions as there is no need to employ workers to read meters.



The Smart Meter as a Part of the “Smart Network”

The smart meter is a central component of the “smart grid” (in Hebrew). The smart electrical grid (SMART GRID) is an advanced electricity network, based upon two-way data transmission dialogue between all network components such as behavior of electricity production sources and consumer behavior, with a goal of automatically improving efficiency, reliability, economic viability and sustainability of electricity production and consumption.

Energy management and routing can be done from any location to any location (in Hebrew) using the smart network, with the flexibility to adjust to conditions in real time. This management is done through information systems that receive data continuously from sensors installed in the network, including smart meters installed with end consumers. Thus the smart network enables reliable electricity supply and very high quality electricity, optimization of energy efficiency for consumers through data availability, reduction of peak demand and a reduction of operational costs for the transmission and distribution company.

The establishment of a smart network is very expensive, estimated at billions of shekels (in Hebrew).

In Israel, The Ministry of Energy and Water (formally The Ministry of National Infrastructure) determined (in Hebrew) that implementation of the smart network is one of four key energy-related areas that will receive national prioritization. During 2010, The Electric Company established a steering committee for the smart grid, headed by its deputy chief customer officer, with a goal of determining policy for smart network implementation in The Israel Electric Company.

In 2013, The Minister of Finance and The Minister of Energy and Water National Infrastructures, appointed a steering committee to implement a reform in the electrical economy and The Electric Company. A draft of the steering committee recommendations (in Hebrew) (March 2014) included a recommendation to make a decision on the principles of the rollout of a smart network in Israel, with extent and schedule to be determined by cost effectiveness assessments [in September 2014 government representatives and the workers’ union announced to the regional court that their negotiations for implementing the reform had reached a dead end and in March 2015 The National Companies Authority informed The State Comptroller (in Hebrew)  that “at this stage the work of the (steering) committee has ceased].



Radiation from the Wireless Smart Meter

The RF transmitters in wireless smart meters broadcast in frequency ranges similar to those of many other widely used communications devices, and with low power in the range of tens of milliwatts (around 10 – 25 milliwatts). These powers are below the threshold requiring approval (100 milliwatts), as was determined in the 2006 Non-Ionizing Radiation Act. The powers are also far below those of mobile phones, that expose the user to far higher levels of non-ionizing radiation (5 to 25 times as much). In a study conducted in Australia, it was found that in residential buildings the level of exposure from smart meters ranged between 0.000001-0.0113% of the exposure threshold recommended for the general public (set by the radiation protection regulations of ARPANSA, The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency).

The American Electric Power Research Institute (ERPI) conducted a study in 2011, comparing RF radiation levels from a certain type of smart meter, in laboratory conditions, to FCC exposure levels (The United States Federal Communications Commission).

The results showed, amongst other things, that smart meter exposure levels (even close to the transmitting meter) were far lower than the exposure limits set by the FCC.

The average RF radiation exposure level measured from the smart meters in this study was similar to that from other devices emitting RF radiation in the home or outside of it. Compared to other devices, the radiation level from the smart meter was similar to the radiation level from TV/RADIO/Wireless router transmissions and less than the levels emitted from cellphones and home microwave ovens.



Policies around the World (as of November 2016)

In many nations around the world (USA, UK, Germany, Canada, Italy and others) smart networks are being laid, as a part of a policy aimed at limiting energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gases. Certain countries have even made laws concerning installation of smart meters as part of clean energy initiatives. For example, in 2008 the UK determined that by 2019, 53 million smart meters would be installed in homes and businesses (this was later changed to 2020). The European Union made a decision calling for all member nations to provide smart meters to 80% of electricity consumers by 2020. In China, the government published a smart network plan in 2012, according to which 300 million smart meters will be installed by 2015 and 380 million by 2020.

In most countries around the world, non-ionizing radiation policy is based upon the ICNIRP guidelines. Since smart meters are a source of non-ionizing radiation, they must conform to exposure limits set in each country. In the USA, Canada, Australia and the European Union, there is no clear policy concerning non-ionizing radiation emitted by smart meters, and the policy in each country has been decided independently.

Smart meter policy tends to concentrate on non-health related factors, such as:

  • Privacy – protection and security of information and data
  • How to encourage the installation of smart meters
  • Cost – benefit
  • Functionality
  • Tariff setting systems

Most of the countries have performed an economic analysis of the long term costs and advantages (for example with the encouragement of the European Union), however the subject of health effects did not constitute a significant factor in these analyses. Even when health effects were discussed, this was regarding changes to C02 emissions and air pollution as a result of electricity consumption changes, and radiation emitted from the meters was not considered.



Guidelines on Smart Meters

California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) (2011)


A comprehensive review conducted by a group of CCST scientists evaluated:

1. Do the FCC wireless smart meter regulations adequately protect the public?

2. Is there a need for a specific technology standard for smart meters and other home devices to protect public health?

These are the key findings of the review, according to the summary:

  • When wireless smart meters are properly installed and maintained, the level of exposure to RF radiation is far lower than from many other common household devices, especially mobile phones and home microwave ovens.
  • The current FCC regulation provides a satisfactory safety standard for thermal effects of electrical home appliances and smart meters on health.
  • To date, scientific studies have not identified or confirmed negative non-thermal effects on health resulting from RF radiation, as produced by common household appliances and smart meters.
  • Not enough is known about potential non-thermal effects of RF radiation to identify or recommend additional regulations.


Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) 2015

According to an ARPANSA position paper on the subject of smart meters and health, there is no proven scientific evidence that exposure to low levels of RF from wireless smart meters has adverse effects on health.

Smart meters are required to meet ARPANSA RF radiation exposure standards.

The combination of relatively low intensity of the transmitters, their location outside buildings and the short amount of time they transmit means that the total exposure from smart meters is very low and is below the exposure threshold, even when several devices broadcast simultaneously.

Health organizations worldwide and the World Health Organization examined the findings and the scientific proofs of potential health effects of smart meters. Studies suggest that there is no evidence base for health effects of exposure to low level of RF from smart meters.

  • Health Canada, the Canadian Ministry of Health, determined that exposure to RF from wireless smart meters does not pose a risk factor to public health. Since the levels of exposure are well below the safety threshold set in Canada and throughout the world, there is no need to take any special precautionary steps to reduce RF exposure from smart meters.
  • An information leaflet on public health and smart meters in the UK (2012) – RF radiation emitted from wireless smart meters does not constitute a health risk. Evaluations carried out in other countries using smart meters have found low exposures compared to accepted international guidelines. In the opinion of Public Health England, exposure to RF is not a reason to forgo smart meter installation.
  • The American Cancer Society (2014) – according to the summary on the Society website, the answer to the question of what is the level of exposure to RF radiation from wireless smart meters is dependent upon the distance from them, and how the meter transmits. The frequency and power of the emitted RF from the smart meter is similar to that of a cellphone, wireless phone or wireless router.

In smart meters, because the antenna is located outside of the house, people are further distant from the RF transmission source than they are from other RF emitting sources like cellphones and wireless phones. The exposure level from smart meters is lower than exposure from other sources.

Since RF radiation is classified as “Possibly carcinogenic to humans” and smart meters emit such radiation, it is possible that smart meters might increase cancer risk, but it is not clear what the risk is for people living near a smart meter.

It would be nearly impossible to conduct a study to prove or disprove a link between living in a house with smart meters and cancer development, because people are surrounded with many sources of exposure to RF and because the level of exposure from this specific source is so small



Smart Meter Installation Policy

The following is a sample of various countries and their wireless smart meter installation policies:

  • The European Union – The policy of the European Union supports the installation of wireless smart meters as a means to achieve the goal of energy efficiency by 2020 (The Energy Services Directive 2006/32/ec defined smart meters as one of the main ways to achieve improved efficiency in energy consumption). 
    According to the EU decision, at least 80% of consumers must be smart meter owners by 2020, according to a positive long term cost-benefit analysis, that will be carried out in each country. The EU recommendations allow for the economic analysis of long term costs and benefits, both to the market and the consumer. Should the cost benefit analysis be negative, the government of that nation can stop the smart meter installation program required by the European Union.
    ​As of mid- 2011, about 42.3 million smart meters had been installed, mainly in Italy, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.
  • The UK – Installation of wireless smart meters is part of a national scheme led by energy industries aimed at helping home economies to reduce their energy consumption. The UK government’s vision is that every home throughout Britain will have a smart gas and electricity meter. The goal of the program is to install more than 50 million smart gas and electricity meters in all private homes and small businesses by 2020. Smart meters will be installed in most homes between 2016-2020. In December 2012 the government published a decision on consumer relations rules, including the subject of safety. According to the rules, consumers will be able to change their minds and remove the smart meter. Most of the meters combine gas and electricity.
  • France – According to a decision from 2013, the government plans to start a pilot for a wireless smart meter program that will eventually deploy 35 million smart meters by 2020.
  • Italy – In Italy wired smart meters have been installed that transmit data via lines using the electric grid, through information transfer at a different frequency via electric wires (power line communication). By May 2013, smart meters were installed in more than 90% of Italian homes.
  • Germany – The only country amongst Europe’s large states that has not committed to a nationwide rollout. Large electricity consumers are obligated to install smart meters. For residential consumers, home installation of meters is in the pilot stage, the results of which will undergo a cost benefit analysis. By mid- 2012 around 500,000 meters had been installed as a part of the pilot. In 2013 the Ministry of Economics published a report concluding that the full deployment of smart meters will not provide any economic advantages to consumers in Germany. As a result of this, Germany has postponed full installation of wireless smart meters until 2020.
  • The United States – US policy supports smart network installation. The federal government invested in a smart network as a part of the policy to advance the electric grid in the country, and in this framework smart meters are being installed.
    Following concerns regarding privacy violation and RF radiation, some of the US authorities installing wireless smart meters allow consumers who prefer not to install smart meters in their homes to opt out of the program. Many utility suppliers include information on their websites explaining why smart meter use is safe. 
    How many smart meters have been installed in the USA?​
    According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as of December, 2012, the estimated smart meter coverage in the US was estimated at around 22.9% (or 38.1 million smart meters installed throughout the United States), an increase from 8.7% in 2010.
    In 2013, 51 million smart meters had been installed, 89% of which were in private homes. In 2014 there were a total of 58.5 million smart meters throughout the United States (about 51 million in private homes).
  • Canada – The federal government established a smart meter unit in 2016, to implement the smart meter program
  • British Columbia: there is legislation from 2010 requiring electricity suppliers to install wireless smart meters to all 1.8 million of their customers by the end of 2012. The electric company, BC Hydro, performed a large roll out of smart meters. 96% of consumers, 1.6 million, received meters. That said, there were widespread objections to the meters as a result of concerns about health effects. The Stop Smart Meters Society leads the movement against smart meters which also includes suggestions for a class action law suit. It should be noted that the electricity company levies a monthly fine on consumers refusing to install a smart meter



Examples of Lawsuits Brought Against Wireless Smart Meter Installation

  • In the American state of Maine, a lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court in 2011 against the installation of smart meters. The struggle went on for 5 years, with the Maine consumers’ objections based on health and safety. The suit was filed by consumers who made various claims against the company that installed the meters. Prior to the suit, the Maine Public Utilities Commission received complaints from consumers regarding the safety of smart meter technology, especially the health effects of RF radiation emitted from the smart meter and the potential for infringement of consumer privacy and property rights.
    It was argued that the company did not offer consumers the option of not installing smart meters. As a result, the Commission decided that the company must provide an alternative to consumers who choose not to install a smart meter. The Commission decided to allow consumers to keep their old meters on the condition that they pay a fine. In July 2011 a lawsuit was filed against the Commission and the company. 
    The suit demanded that the commission institute an enquiry, and take into account new and important findings regarding radiation emitted from smart meters. The plaintiffs also requested that the commission be instructed to freeze the ongoing installation of smart meters. 
    The commission dismissed the suit without a hearing and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
    Maine’s Supreme Court determined that the Commission should not have dismissed the portion of the suit pertaining to the subjects of health and safety, and this portion of the appeal was accepted. All other aspects of the appeal were rejected.
    ​In January 2016 Maine’s Supreme Court approved the Commission’s determination that smart meters do not constitute a risk to consumer health or safety.
  • In the USA, citizens of Arizona expressed concern regarding health effects of RF radiation emitted from smart meters. Because of this concern the ACC (Arizona Corporation Commission) ordered a survey of smart meter usage in Arizona. The goal of the report was, amongst other things, to determine if exposure to RF radiation from electronic meters is within established FCC standards or if the radiation is at a level that should concern the public? The report’s conclusion was that the exposure to electronic meters (AMI and AMR) does not harm public health.
  • In Canada, in July 2013, citizens and a non- profit organization filed a lawsuit against BC Hydro, pointing to concerns regarding health effects of wireless devices. Amongst other things, there were accusations that the meters have apparently caused fires in the past few years.
    In 2013 Hydro announced that it no longer installed meters without citizens’ consent, after almost 95% of the meters had been installed. Whoever did not want to install a smart meter and preferred to keep the old meter would have to pay a fine. All of the meters were supposed to be installed by the end of the year, but thousands of consumers refused for health, safety and privacy reasons. 
    In 2014 some authorities in Canada, especially British Columbia, objected to the installation of smart meters for reasons of violations of privacy, safety, and health effects.



Policy in Israel

The Position of the Ministry of Environmental Protection on the Installation of Wireless Smart Meters

A wireless smart meters transmits power levels lower than the exempted level; therefore it may be installed without a permit according to the Non-Ionizing Radiation Act. That said, according to data presented in 2012 by Prof. Ghelberg, head of the Noise Abatement and Radiation Safety Department in the Ministry of Environmental Protection, if all one million electricity, gas and water consumers are connected to wireless meters, public exposure to RF radiation would be increased.

Accordingly, the Noise Abatement and Radiation Safety Department recommends that service providers install smart meters connected to a wired network, to reduce unjustified exposure to radiation. The recommended model is the one existing in Italy: use of communications over power lines, but any other wired network may be used (in Italy, wired smart meters were deployed that transmit data via wires using the power grid by transferring information on a different frequency from that of the electricity lines (power line communication)).

The smart meters utilize wired communication that not only does not emit radiation, but also provide a lower cost and greater reliability and capacity compared to wireless smart meters.

It should be noted that this position of the Ministry of Environmental Protection was relayed to the Local Authorities Centre in February, 2012. In practice, local authorities in Israel have installed wireless smart meters. As mentioned, there is an exemption from radiation permits (constructing and operating) for the wireless system of water and electric meter reading, which transmit at maximum power level less than 100 milli-watts.



Installation of Electricity Meters

According to a report on the state of the electricity industry in 2015 (in Hebrew):

The Electricity Authority decided in 2013 to study the technological and economic feasibility of a national smart meter deployment.

A pilot was conducted in several sample locations: Binaymina, Givat Ada, and the Caesaria Industrial Zone.

Comparison to the standard procedure around the world showed that before making a decision regarding mode of deployment of “smart” electricity meters, a cost benefit economic analysis is required to check to what degree the measure is worthwhile in light of the public cost.

The plan is to expand the project to additional places that will be representative of the entire national population. In this framework different smart meter models can be examined from different engineering perspectives. Amongst other things, different types of communications are being compared, via cellular modem (M2M) and Power Line Communication (PLC).

According to the report, 4,200 meters have now been installed as a part of the pilot.

The goal: the installation of 15,000 smart meters, as acceptable in similar pilots in the world.

About 16,000 smart meters have already been installed, but these have only been placed in the facilities of large consumers and they measure about 60% of the national electricity consumption.

According to Mr. Yitzhak Balmas, Deputy CEO and Deputy Chief Customer Office of the Israel Electric Corporation, installation of 34 thousand meters is expected by 2018. Today meters are being installed in 4 places in Israel. Following the industry wide cost-benefit analysis and test of economic feasibility, they will advance to the final stages of the national roll out of about 2.6 million smart meters.



Installation of Water Meters 

Smart water meters are installed in different local municipalities in Israel. For instance, in Afula over 10,000 smart water meters were installed. The Modi’in Maccabim Reut municipality already started a wireless water meter installation project in all homes in the city in 2008.

The Mei Modi’in Water Company published on its website the exemption from radiation permits for the wireless system for reading water and electricity meters. In the exemption issued by the Ministry for Environmental Protection it was written:

“The transmission power is less than the minimal power requiring approval via a permit. The radiation level emitted from the water meters whilst transmitting is negligible even at a distance of a few centimeters, however it is recommended that they be installed a distance of half meter from areas where people may spend extended periods of time. Therefore there is an exemption from a permit for the construction and operation of a wireless system for reading water and electricity transmitting at a maximum power level lower than 100 milliwatts".



Reference List


Updated on: 23.1.2018