People in the West Kootenay who are energy customers of FortisBC will not be immune to the smart meter installation program currently being undertaken by BC Hydro.
An application to B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) for an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) program is being prepared. Should the BCUC grant FortisBC approval, the utility will initiate replacement of “existing electro-mechanical and digital meters with advanced meters” by 2015, according to the company’s website (http://www.fortisbc.com/).
The advanced meters communicate directly with the company and provide electricity consumption information directly to their customers. Under the application, FortisBC expects to install the network necessary to make that communication possible and secure.
However, the people of the region will have some say about how, and if, this happens.
Once an application is filed with the BCUC, FortisBC will then go through a regulatory process which includes public input and ends with a decision.
“Should FortisBC receive the approval of the BCUC, the utility would then move forward with the proposed advanced meters,” said FortisBC corporate communications advisor Neal Pobran in an email.
The possibility of the program coming to the Greater Trail area was news to Montrose council. Mayor Joe Danchuk said Blair Weston, PowerSense technical advisor for FortisBC in the Kootenays, had assured Montrose council they were “backing off” on smart meter installations.
He tried to contact Weston about the possibility of the smart meters coming to the area after reading an article in the Trail Daily Times, but had yet to receive a reply.
“If they are planning (this) then he should be coming in and talking to the residents. I think we need to hear his views,” said Mayor Danchuk.
“As a council we need to be more aware of the pros and cons of everything,” Coun. Mary Gay added. “I know I don’t want them.”
People can find out more details about the project at www.fortisbc.com/ami or learn more about the BCUC regulatory process at www.bcuc.com
How it works
According to the FortisBC website, advanced meters look similar to existing digital electricity meters, but provide more information.
They are expected to “update and enhance the efficiency of the FortisBC’s electrical system.” FortisBC customers would receive more information about energy use to improve efficiency.
Smart meters digitally measure electricity usage, sending the data periodically (four to six times a day) through a two-way connection to FortisBC. The hourly metering data is available to customers on a secure website where they can monitor electricity consumption.
Interim increase approved
As of Jan. 1 FortisBC customers in the Greater Trail area will see a 1.5 per cent interim increase, recently approved by the BCUC in Fortis’ annual revenue requirement application.
According to FrtisBC, the interim increase will allow the company to invest in the electric system and build infrastructure to meet the future power needs.
On average, a residential electricity bill — using approximately 1,000 kWh — will see an increase on their bill of approximately $1.65 per month.
The 1.5 per cent interim and refundable rate change will apply to all electricity customers of FortisBC and is approved pending the BCUC’s final decision on the company’s 2012/2013 Revenue Requirements Application.