Electricity smart meters will become a fixture in Malaysian homes by 2026

The smart meter measures electricity usage very accurately. It allows home owners to monitor their usage via a mobile app or online. Photo: TNB

Everything is going “smart” these days. From mobile phones to household devices like refrigerators and air-conditioners, the Internet of Things is taking over our lives. Next up: Electricity meters.

By 2026, a majority of Malaysian households will feature a smart meter. Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) says its aim is to fit 9.1 million homes across the country with the device by then. At a recent media briefing, the electricity provider stated that close to 300,000 smart meters were installed in Melaka between 2016 and 2018 under Phase 1 of its plan.

“For 2019 until 2020, we are targeting to install the meter for 1.2 million TNB consumers around the Klang Valley,” stated Energy Commission Industry Operations director Roslee Esman.

The smart meter is a device that records your power usage and communicates this automatically to TNB via radio-frequency waves for monitoring and billing. Through direct monitoring, the meter is able to read your usage, which means it can provide a more accurate reading for yours bills and energy efficiency.

By using the app myTNB or going online at mytnb.com.my, you can track – in real time – how much energy is being used daily and the current cost. Detailed usage and billing information will also be available, and high bill alerts can be set, whereby you get a message when your power bill hits a fixed amount.

TNB is currently setting up the infrastructure needed around the Klang Valley. Radio frequency monopoles are required to create a network system before the smart meter can be installed. There's also the need to educate consumers on the myths surrounding the use of smart meters.

Soon, no one from Tenaga Nasional Berhad will come to your home to read your electricity meter and print out your bill. Smart meters will provide TNB with all your information at their command centre.

One misconception is that the device poses a health risk. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Wireless Communications Centre lecturer Chua Tien Han, who was present at the briefing, said that smart meters are no more harmful than mobile phones.

“People are afraid of things they cannot see. Misunderstanding is based on hearsay. People need to understand to fear less,” he stated. Chua added that the use of radio-frequency waves and subsequent radiation exposure is so minute, it can be deemed negligible.

The safest level of radio frequency emissions for humans to be exposed to is 1,000 µW/cm² (microWatts per square centimetre). At 10ft away, the smart meter only emits 0.1 µW/cm² whereas a microwave oven at two inches from the door emits 1,000 µW/cm².

According to TNB, all smart meters will be tested and certified by Sirim. They will comply with safety regulations set and regulated by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Other benefits of the meter include the speed and ease with which households can transfer ownership of TNB accounts. Also, TNB will be immediately notified if the electricity goes out.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry deputy secretary-general Noor Afifah Abdul Razak pointed out that the US, UK, Singapore and Japan have already installed smart meters.

“When the infrastructure is ready, it should be easy to fit homes with the smart meter,” she said. “We just need to correct the negative perception that the public has regarding its use.”

The installation of the meter is free. Carried out by TNB-appointed technicians, it is estimated to take between 30 to 60 minutes, and home owners will be contacted a few days beforehand to confirm their availability.

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