Mixed reports on faulty smart meters

Since BC Hydro began installing smart meters in homes across the province, complaints about higher than usual bills have surfaced.

  • Apr. 18, 2012 9:00 a.m.
Smart meters have already been installed in the Eagle Creek area

Smart meters have already been installed in the Eagle Creek area

Since BC Hydro began installing smart meters in homes across the province, complaints about higher than usual bills have surfaced.

To date, approximately 1,500 smart meters have already been installed in the local area and there is about 2,500 meters that are yet to be installed locally. BC Hydro expects they will be installed by the end of this month.

Recently more than 1,000 smart meters, which are made by Itron Inc. of Washington State, have been removed from homes across the province and according to BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer, Itron is paying for the testing, removal and replacement of these smart meters.

Bob Gammer, from BC Hydro further explained the reason why the meters were removed. He said, “BC Hydro is testing 1,000 meters as part of its ongoing quality assurance program. This is a small sample, in fact a fraction of one percent of the 1.85 million new smart meters BC Hydro is installing.”

Gammer said, “There is absolutely no connection between smart meters and any reported increases in customers bills. In all of the cases we have investigated, we have not found a single link. We are receiving more complaints about customers with analog meters than we are with smart meters,” he said.

According to Gammer, BC Hydro looks into all customer enquiries and is able to solve 99 per cent of them over the phone.

There are many reasons why customers may experience higher than usual electricity bills which Gammer said could include cold winter weather and darker days, which lead customers to use more heat and light.

“Weather data shows that this past winter has been colder than the previous year. In December, the province was  nine percent colder than last year and in January, parts of the province were as much as eight percent colder than last year. On average, home heating can account for household’s electricity use, so during cold, winter months, bills may be higher.”

Gammer also attributed changes in lifestyle to higher electricity bills.

“BC Hydro’s meter reading and billing accuracy is at 99 per cent. On rare occasions, meters can be misread. This can lead to over billing, or under billing in one billing period, which is adjusted when the meter is read at the next billing period and a correction, or refund is issued. Meters operate on the same basis as a car’s odometer, it continues to accrue as consumption continues to register.”

However Jennifer Young, from BC Hydro media relations said to Lakes District News that BC Hydro has found some faulty smart meters.

“We have found some meters with components that aren’t working properly and are showing an error message or have a blank screen. Like other pieces with electronic components, we know there will be some anomalies and with electronic equipment and we’re going to find some meters that don’t work properly early on,” she said.

Young said, “We had one situation in Kamloops with a malfunctioning smart meter that was discovered by a meter reader. The meter was replaced immediately. When the customer contacted us we corrected his bill before he paid anything. To date, we’ve installed over one million smart meters province wide and although rare, we may see other instances of a person getting an erroneous bill. In these cases we will try to minimize the inconvenience to the customer and when we find a problem, we fix it.”

She said, “We investigate every customer complaint thoroughly and we are taking these inquiries very seriously.”

Gammer said, “All of our meters, whether they are analog, digital, or smart meters are regulated by Measurement Canada and certified for accuracy. We are required to manage our meters in accordance with the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act, a federal statute administered by Measurement Canada, a federal government department. BC Hydro regularly performs field tests on about 40,000 meters every year province wide.”



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