Hydro’s smart meters arrive this year

BC Hydro is getting ready to install 'smart meters' across the province that will tell customers how much electricity they're using at different times of the day.

BC Hydro is getting ready to install ‘smart meters’ across the province that will tell customers how much electricity they’re using at different times of the day.

The B.C. program will not immediately come with mandatory higher rates for peak period use and lower rates for non-peak times such as late at night.

BC Hydro says customers will be offered an opportunity to choose “time of use” rates if they want them.

But that promise only lasts until all the new meters are installed, by the end of 2012.

BC Hydro says it still in the early stages of determining its rate structure for the smart meter era and all rate changes must be approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

The smart meter program is budgeted to cost $930 million, including meters, wireless networks and in-home displays for customers.

NDP energy critic and leadership candidate John Horgan said a new time-of-day rate structure is inevitable, but it can’t be imposed until customers have smart meters.

“If you had a billion dollars, is this the best way to spend it?” Horgan said. “And we’re looking at a 50 per cent rate increase over the next three years.”

The smart meters will report consumption automatically, eliminating the need for meter readers and the new meters will also detect power outages and electricity theft.

Installation is to begin by mid-2011 and customers will receive notices along with their bills when installers are coming to their community.

Once a smart meter is installed, customers with computers will be able to log into their BC Hydro account and see a nearly real-time display of their electricity use.

After meter installation is done BC Hydro plans to offer rebates to purchase an in-home power consumption display that sits on the wall like a thermostat.

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