Smart meters not responsible for complaints: Hydro

  • Mar. 14, 2012 5:00 p.m.

BC Hydro has been receiving lots of complaints from customers about higher-than-normal bills, but says it has nothing to do with the new smart meters. The likeliest explanation, said Hydro community relations coordinator Dave Mosure, is that people have recently received bills for the two coldest months of the year, January and February, when electricity consumption typically spikes. Mr. Mosure said he has heard complaints about the high bills and speculation that it has something to do with the new meters. “The natural reaction is it’s got to be the smart meters,” he said. However, Hydro does not believe that smart meters cause higher bills or increased energy use for several reasons, he said. First, Hydro finds that bill complaints usually go up at this time of year, and the number received this year is comparable to previous years. Second, only about half the complaining customers have smart meters, while the other half still have the old-style meters. Third, the weather this past January was colder than normal in northwestern BC. While smart meters were installed on most homes on Haida Gwaii in the fall, they won’t be fully functional until about a year from now, when the entire provincial system starts working. At the moment, meter readers are still collecting data from the new meters for billing purposes. Mr. Mosure said it is possible for a mistake to be made here, but said the new meters are much easier to read than the old ones. All Hydro customers have the right to have their meter removed and tested if they believe there is something wrong with it, Mr. Mosure said. However, if the meter is found to be accurate, the customer has to pay for the testing. He’s heard of about 20 customers requesting the test, but all meters were found to be working fine. There are other reasons that a bill could be more than expected, he said, and Hydro has a list of them on its website, including a longer-than-usual billing period, or because electricity use was estimated because the meter reader was sick or couldn’t get access to the property. “We have complete faith in the accuracy of the smart meters,” Mr. Mosure said. “We stand behind them 100 percent.” BC residents may also be influenced by reports from Ontario and California, he said, where people were hit by higher bills after smart meters were installed. In those cases, he said, the introduction of smart meters was accompanied by general rate increases and ‘time of use’ increases. BC is not planning any ‘time of use’ increases for now, he said, and rates did not change over the winter. However, a rate increase of about 7 percent will be taking effect April 1, Mr. Mosure said. Meanwhile, North Coast MLA Gary Coons said he’s been hearing from constituents concerned about their recent Hydro bills. It seems to be a real issue all over BC, he said, one that’s been raised in the Legislature. Energy Minister Rich Coleman has promised to look into individual cases that are brought to him, Mr. Coons said. Any north coast residents who believe there’s something wrong with their electricity bill should first talk to Hydro. In two cases that he knows of, Hydro realized there had been a reading error. If that doesn’t resolve the concerns, Mr. Coons said people should contact his constituency office in Prince Rupert, and he will forward cases to Minister Coleman.

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