FortisBC secures fees for AMI hold outs

The utility company will be installing approx 9,700 smart meters in the Greater Trail area in 2014.

FortisBC customers who choose to have their meter read the old fashioned way will be paying more for the service later this year.

Following the BC Utilities Commission’s (BCUC) decision on Dec. 19 that approved certain fee structures,  FortisBC confirmed customers who opt for a radio-off smart meter will be subject to an $18 bi-monthly fee to cover the cost of manual meter reading.

Additionally, a one-time $60 fee will be charged to any customer who chooses the radio-off option before meter upgrades begin in their region; which increases to $88 for customers who hold out until meters are installed in their area.

“Right now we are receiving phone calls at our customer contact centre from those expressing a desire to receive the radio-off option,” said David Wylie, FortisBC’s corporate communications advisor. “We are finalizing the application form that will be available for download on our website to request radio-off which means disabling the wireless transmission.”

The utility company will install 5,000 new meters in Trail homes and businesses and a further 4,700 to electrical customers throughout Greater Trail in 2014 as part of its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project.

“Existing analog and some of our digital meters will be replaced because they are nearing the end of their lifespan,” explained Wylie. “We expect to begin installing advanced meters in the summer and expect to be done by the end of 2015.

“Customers will receive a letter 30 days ahead of time informing them when their meter will be installed.”

FortisBC filed its radio-off AMI meter option application with the BCUC in August, with the AMI decision requiring the company to file an application for opt-out provisions by Nov. 1.

In its application, the company proposed that customers may choose to have a radio-off AMI meter put in place at any time with a per-premises setup fee of $110 and a $22 charge every two months thereafter to have the meter read. But the Commission’s panel viewed the FortisBC proposal and had concerns about the accuracy of the stated costs and did not accept those proposed fees as being just and reasonable, according to the BCUC Dec. 19 report.

The panel ruled the per-premises set up cost and bi-monthly manual meter reading fee is permanent, however, FortisBC was directed to track the actual number of radio-off AMI participants and the actual annual manual meter reading costs until Sept. 2016 for further BCUC review.

FortisBC maintains the advanced meters, which are similar in appearance to the traditional model, will prevent electricity theft and provide customers with fewer bill estimates.