FortisBC’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project begins in Trail in September when crews will be going out into the community, swapping out new for old.
“We’ll be notifying customers by mail a few weeks before we send the crews out to begin the exchanges,” said David Wiley, spokesperson for FortisBC. “We are offering the radio off option for any people with concerns. This option will include a fee that has been approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).”
Various groups have emerged in the area after the company was approved to begin the AMI project last year by the BCUC, voicing objections to the technology as a possible health hazard.
However a discussion forum that was initially planned for Montrose and was eventually mover to a larger forum in Trail in anticipation of a large crowd drew less than 50 people.
Anyone wishing to request the new electrical meter have its WiFi turned off will be required to pay a one-time fee of $60 if the request is made before the exchange is made and $88 if requested after the new meter has been installed.
In addition to the one-time fees, customers who choose the “radio off” option for their meters will also be required to pay an additional monthly fee of $18.
“The additional fee is only to recover the cost associated and make sure the financial benefits of the program are enjoyed by our customers who choose it,” said Wiley. “The benefits of the AMI program means reduced electrical theft and a more efficient electrical grid which means that rates can be kept lower with AMI than without it.”
The new meters mean that customers will be able to choose different billing options, such as being billed monthly rather than every second month if it might make their budgeting easier.
It will also be possible for customers to use online tools to see what their actual energy consumption is to anticipate their bills.
“It’s an update to the electrical system to make it more efficient, more reliable, and more cost effective,” Wiley said. “When there are power outages it makes it easier to pinpoint the source of the outage quicker, which makes for better customer service.”
After beginning in Trail in the fall the company will continue with the exchanges, community by community, with an anticipated completion date of 2015.
Anyone wishing to choose the “radio off” option with the new meters can do so by calling the FortisBC call centre at 1-866-436-7847.