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B.C. Hydro is replacing all of its customers’ meters with smart meters, that will transmit hourly information about electricity consumption. Verschoor also addressed some of the other common worries and questions, including the benefits, the cost, and the health risks.
Some of the listed benefits of switching to Smart Meters include modernization the electrical grid, which can lead to accommodating alternative sources of energy like solar panels and wind, providing hourly energy updates to B.C. Hydro three times a day, and addressing outages more quickly and efficiently. Identifying marijuana grow ops was reportedly also a driving factor in choosing this type of meter, as it can tell if there is an excessive load from electricity theft. Customers will also be able to track their usage daily through an online portal that will publish consumption data from the previous day, and have tools to compare usage to other customers, all in an effort to reduce use.
Many customers have expressed concern that they will incur costs from this change. Verschoor assures that although other jurisdictions have charged for Smart Meters, there will be no extra cost to users, and no bill surcharge. At the time of installation, B.C. Hydro workers will also do an inspection of the electrical box, and if there’s an issue an electrician will fix it, free of charge, a service not normally provided.
The switch to smart meters will cost B.C. Hydro $930 million, but the company estimates it will reap $1.6 billion in benefits, making it worthwhile. The cost will be amortized over a 20 year period, and is expected to be offset by the benefits. Verschoor says, “at the end of the day, it’s a net-cost savings,” but don’t expect to see those savings reducing your bill either; there are other factors driving up energy costs as well.
Those benefits won’t kick in in full until every customer is equipped with a new meter, which is why Hydro plans to have all 1.9 million meters installed by the end of this year, instead of phasing them in over time. About 600,000 meters have already been installed. Fort St. John’s transition is expected this spring, once the weather is warmer.
Lastly, customers have sent Hydro many emails worried about the radio frequency of the meters. In an attempt to quell those concerns, Verschoor says B.C. Hydro has done studies that show the radio frequency from a smart meter over its 20-year life is equivalent to the exposure during a 30 minute cell phone call. Although the meter tracks usage 24/7, it only transmits that information three times a day, and is on for less that 3 seconds a day.
If you have any questions or concerns about smart meters, you can email SmartMeters@bchydro.com, or visit www.bchydro.com/smartmeters for more information.
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