After months of build-up and debate, FortisBC has begun smart meter installations in Trail.
Through the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project, FortisBC will be making its way around the Kootenays and the Okanagan replacing traditional electricity meters with new smart meters.
After new meters are installed in Trail, FortisBC will be moving on to Warfield, Salmo, Ymir, Nelway, then Fruitvale, Montrose and Rossland. The installation process will then move to Kelowna, the South Okanagan, Similkameen and Boundary and then back to finish off the Kootenays in late 2015.
After a few safety scares with smart meters in Saskatchewan, FortisBC wants to assure customers that before a contractor installs the new meter, the hook-up will receive a close safety inspection.
“As with any project we do, safety is always a primary consideration,” explained David Wylie, corporate communications advisor at FortisBC. “Every customer-owned meter base will be inspected prior to installation of a FortisBC AMI meter. The inspection will flag any unusual wiring, broken government seals, broken or cracked meter base lugs and will include a voltage check.”
Customer are given the option of declining one of the new transmitting meters and Fortis says almost two dozen customers in the region have already done so. There is a charge for opting out of the new meters, as well as a charge for future manual meter readings.
Now that installations have begun, customers who aren’t interested in the new smart meters will be charged a one-time $88 fee with a charge of $18 for every manual reading. Wylie says the charge is to cover the costs associated with having a “radio-off” meter.
“A radio-off meter does not send consumption information to the utility – instead, a FortisBC employee will visit the premises to manually download data from the meter,” he said. “(The $88) recovers administrative and infrastructure costs associated with the installation of a radio-off meter. A per-read fee of $18 recovers the cost of manually downloading the consumption and operational data from a radio-off meter. This covers the vehicle and labour costs incurred for the ongoing manual reading process.”
The smart meter installation process has been met with some opposition from a group called the Citizens for Safe Technology Society. The society has launched a campaign against the smart meters, citing electrohypersentitivity, a highly debated physiological condition the group claims is worsened by the electromagnetic frequency emitted from the new meters. BC Hydro dismissed the claims, saying the condition was based on “self-diagnosis of the individual complainants”.
The group was also denied a hearing in front of the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal stated, “there is no reasonable prospect that the complainants will be able to establish that the electromagnetic frequency exposure resulting from smart meters results in adverse health conditions.”
Wylie says the new meters will eliminate the need for manual readings and give customers a better understanding of their hydro bills.
“Advanced meters will have numerous benefits for our customers, including different billing options and tools to help them more easily understand their bill and better mange their household’s energy use,” he said. “With meter readings available at any date, out customers will also have fewer (bill) estimates and will be able to access the most up-to-date information on their account. (We will also have) more efficient responses to power outages.”
The new meters will provide real-time meter readings available to customers online. Wylie says the meters will also show customers when they have higher usage throughout any given day, week or month.
For more information on the smart meters and the Advanced Metering Infrastructure project, visit fortisbc.com/ami.