FortisBC given approval to install advanced meters

B.C. Utilities Commission signs off on FortisBC's advanced metering infrastructure project for its electricity customers.

  • Jul. 23, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Each local mesh networked smart meter has a hub such as this Elster A3 Type A30 which interfaces 900MHz smart meters to the metering automation server via a landline.

Each local mesh networked smart meter has a hub such as this Elster A3 Type A30 which interfaces 900MHz smart meters to the metering automation server via a landline.

FortisBC has been given the go-ahead to proceed with the installation of advanced meters for its electricity customers in southern B.C., including Kelowna and Lake Country.

That approval was granted in a 200-page decision released by the B.C. Utilities Commission today.

But when Fortis customers will begin seeing advanced meters, similar to the controversial smart meters championed by BC Hydro, is still being worked out.

“The BCUC’s decision is lengthy and we have a responsibility to our customers to review it before making a commitment to moving forward with the project,” said a news release issued by FortisBC today.

“We believe advanced meters are an accurate, reliable and safe way to deliver energy. Advanced meters will provide a range of benefits to our customers, including economic benefits and safety improvements for utility workers, first responders and the general public. Our focus is to deliver energy safely and reliably at the lowest reasonable cost.”

In an interview with the Capital news, Neal Pobran, manager of corporate communications for FortisBC, said the delay isn’t because there were any surprises in the BCUC ruling.

“It’s been a long process to go through on this as we first made the application for advanced meters last July,” Pobran said. “That included a two week oral hearing in Kelowna where the public and stakeholders were given a chance to have their input on the final decision.”

He said the next step is to come out with an installation process for the some 130,000 electricity customers that will likely start to roll out by the end of August.

While Hydro’s smart meter program has encountered considerable opposition, largely based around health concerns raised by those opposed to the smart meters, Pobran says FortisBC’s experience in this process has been different.

“It has been different from the start in that we have followed a regulatory process to get to this point, whereas BC Hydro was mandated by provincial legislation to do it,” Pobran said.

“And this is for our electricity customers only from Winfield extending down the Okanagan Valley through Kelowna and through the southern region to Creston. If you are on natural gas, this won’t affect you.”

Pobran said customers will have an option to not have the advanced meters installed, but he hopes that most electricity users will see the benefits of the program, since there will be added costs to opt out.

In the case of BC Hydro, which serves West Kelowna and Peachland, people refusing smart meters can opt out from standard smart meter installation, but they will pay to do so. Hydro has three options for those who have refused smart meter installation, Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett  announced on Monday.

They can accept a standard smart meter; accept a digital meter with the radio turned off, which would mean a one-time cost estimated at $100 for installation, plus a fee of about $20 per month to cover the cost of reading the meter; or keep their analog meter and pay a monthly fee — as yet unannounced — which would cover the cost of reading the meter, plus the cost of creating a separate system to record consumption for billing.

Kelowna Capital News