BC Hydro can’t seem to stay out of the news, and on people’s minds. Over the past few weeks a number of constituents have contacted our community office with concerns about additional charges for opting out of a BC Hydro smart meter: If they chose to keep their old meter, would it cost them more per month? And if so, how much more?
We now know. BC Hydro has submitted letters to customers outlining a fee structure for keeping their old meter. Customers who do not want a smart meter will be charged an additional $35 monthly monitoring fee. Customers who have a smart meter but would like to turn off the radio transmitter will be charged a ‘one-time’ fee of $100 and a $20 monthly monitoring fee.
There are many people who have expressed their concerns about having a smart meter attached to their home. The position that I advocated for was that people should have the right to determine what is attached to their homes. The response from BC Hydro was to grant an opt-out option, which I am in favour of
Understandably, the two options–to either transition to a smart meter or to keep one’s original meter–have different costs associated with them for BC Hydro. Switching to a smart meter requires initial capital costs to purchase and install the meters but is relatively inexpensive when it comes to monitoring usage. Keeping an old meter, on the other hand, means no initial capital cost, but higher monitoring costs. My stance is that if these costs are incurred by the customer, they should adequately reflect the costs incurred by BC Hydro and should not be used to generate additional profit.
To charge a customer $35 a month to keep their old meter, when manual readings are traditionally done every 2 or 3 months, translates into customers paying between $70 and $105 per visit. This is outrageous. Several jurisdictions in the United States have created similar opt-out programs for smart meters and only charge their customers $10 to $12 per month, such as in Maine and California . There is also a low income fee structure in California which reduces customer costs from $75 to $10 initial fee, and from $10 to $5 for the monthly fee: a program BC Hydo should consider, or even better, the BC Government impose.
Even though letters sent out by BC Hydro indicate they are going ahead with the new charges, this still requires approval from the BC Utilities Commission.
I am urging the commission to carefully review the fees charged and options available in other jurisdictions, and not to approve the BC Hydro proposal.
Below are links to information on smart meter programs in Maine and California in the United States, for those readers who would like further information on other jurisdictions: