Warfield Council grills FortisBC rep on ‘smart meters’

Warfield council would like FortisBC to absorb the cost of its $40 million advanced metering project, rather than put the burden on its customers.

Warfield council would like FortisBC to absorb the cost of its $40 million advanced metering project, rather than put the burden on its customers.

Blair Weston made the company’s case on moving to “smart metering” at the village’s last council meeting but had a hard crowd to win over.

“Forty-million for your theft and recovery for the company on my back is something that I think maybe Fortis should not be going to the utilities to get a rate increase,” said village councillor Bert Crockett. “I think Fortis should pay for it because it’s a business case for them, not the consumer.”

FortisBC is taking the time to consult with local government to collect feedback on its proposed digital readers, which will have the ability to report a reading in near real-time, rather than showing up on a bill every two months.

If the British Columbia Utilities Commission approves its application to increase rates, nearly all of the existing 112,000 meters in the Southern Interior will be replaced with the advanced units by 2014.

The project is said to eventually pay for itself through savings by eliminating 17 meter reader positions and cracking down on energy theft in relation to marijuana grow operations.

“It’s like you’re passing the buck off on me and I’m paying for that 2.5 million worth of loss theft that the company’s worried about – is it worth it?” asked Crockett.  “I really have my doubts as a consumer for a $40-million investment.”

Weston asked council to consider municipal business, pointing out that if the village wanted to update its building with a new energy efficient one that touted a “green” heat pump system, taxpayers would pay for it up front.

But Crockett fired back, asking when the electrical project is paid off; will customers then see a reduction on their bill?

Councillor Donna Baggio wondered why the company wouldn’t focus more on the power smart side and incorporate its “time-of-use rates” into the equation to allow customers to mange their electricity with cheaper rates during off times.

While customers can easily set this up already, Weston said his employer doesn’t want to mandate people to do this.

“I’m interested, certainly, in this logging system where you can monitor your own consumption and if your wife wants to use the dishwasher at midnight when the cheap rate is on, she can,” agreed Warfield Mayor Jim Nelson.