Since becoming the standard equipment in the province late last year, BC Hydro Smart Meters have become a topic of concern for many British Columbians who have seen a drastic increase in their bills, with little change to their consumptions.
A spokesperson from BC Hydro says this could be for a number of reasons, not necessarily because of the new meters. Although the new Smart Meters are similar in appearance to the old meters, they are much different. The old meters only measured electricity consumption, whereas Smart Meters measure the flow of electricity through the provinces’ entire electricity system, the voltage being delivered to each home or business in B.C as an indicator of power quality, records power consumption on an hourly basis, and automatically detects power outages.
BC Hydro reiterates that Smart Meters will keep rates low, claiming that by implementing the new meters, BC Hydro can make their system “more efficient and cost-effective by reducing power loss and operating costs”. BC Hydro estimated that the new meters would bring approximately $70 million in rate savings over the next three years.
However, with that being said, why do many BC Hydro customers claim it has done the opposite?
Bob Gammer, BC Hydro Communities Relations Manager, advises customers who are concerned with their bills to check out the BC Hydro website.
“I would recommend [anyone who has had a large increase in their bill] to look at our website and look for the section on high bills and run through the checklist to make sure. That’s the easiest way to see if they can spot a reason for their higher-than-normal bill,” said Gammer.
Under the customer service section, some reasons why customers may have higher bills include increased household electricity use, such as if there is a new addition to person or persons living in a household, the winter weather, changes in rates or billing of hydro, change in the period of time of billings, adjustments to payment plans, lack of meter reading in rural areas that would mean estimation of hydro used, issues with heating such as having a home that has cracks and leaks that allow warm air to escape, or an inaccurate thermostat, the use of space heaters, or the fireplace dampers are left open, extra appliance use, and if home renovations are or have been done.
“In the vast majority of cases, we are able to establish that our meters have been read correctly, that the meter is functioning as it should and that consumption has been used within the home,” concluded Gammer, adding BC Hydro investigates every complaint they receive.
According to North Coast MLA Gary Coons, the Smart Meter issue was recently discussed at the Legislature, with the Energy Minister Rich Coleman offering to personally looking into each individual case.
“Across the province we’re hearing stories where people’s bills are just shooting up for some reason,” commented Coons, adding that in some cases after a look over there has be performed, there has been reasons as to why the bills increased so drastically.
“I’m encouraging people who have seen something out of the ordinary [in their bills] to bring it to me, and I’ll make sure it gets to the Minister,” said Coons, asking people to drop it off at the Prince Rupert NDP office located at 818 Third Avenue West.
Before the implication of Smart Meters, the provinces’ electricity system that previously powered the province hadn’t changed for fifty years prior to the Smart Meter.