BC Hydro zeroes in on power theft

Application to utilities commission includes cost of "check meters" for areas where people have refused to accept smart meters

Smart meter installer photographs a sign posted to refuse replacement of mechanical power meter

BC Hydro has formally applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission for approval of extra fees for people who refuse to use the utility’s wireless electricity meters.

BC Hydro’s application details costs expected for staff, vehicles and equipment for manual collection of meter readings,  and adjusting the smart grid software and hardware to compensate for non-transmitting meters.

It also estimates the cost of extra checks for electricity theft in areas where mechanical meters remain. Portable “check meters” are to be deployed to find unexplained power losses in those sections of the grid.

“These check meters are $2,000 per unit, and it is anticipated that an additional 200 to 500 units will be required,” the application states.

The 130-page application seeks BCUC approval to impose fees announced by BC Hydro in September.

It confirms that people who keep their old mechanical meter are to be charged $35 a month, while those who choose a wireless meter with the radio transmitter disabled will be charged a $100 setup fee an $20 a month for manual collection of readings, starting April 1.

The BCUC could reduce the fees if it finds them to be excessive, or increase them if that is justified. The $35 per month fee will be charged to customers with mechanical meters starting Dec. 1, and will be adjusted later if the BCUC changes the fee.

A cabinet order issued by Energy Minister Bill Bennett in September instructs the BCUC to approve fees that cover the actual cost to BC Hydro of accommodating people who refuse to take part in the wireless monitoring system for the province-wide electricity grid.

The cabinet order also demands customers be charged for “failed installations,” if technicians are turned away or access to the BC Hydro-owned meter is blocked.

BC Hydro has sent letters to about 60,000 households that have refused smart meters, outlining the options, along with a form to send back making their choice. Those who make no choice will be assigned the $35-a-month default option, effective Dec. 1.


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