Smart meter foes hit with bill

$35 to keep an old meter or $100 set-up and $20 monthly fee for a radio-off smart meter, “offset the expense of adding infrastructure"

Campbell River’s Tim Benoit is facing extra charges from BC Hydro for his opposition to smart meters.

Benoit is one of roughly 60,000 British Columbians resisting the new wireless devices and, in return, is being slapped with a $35 monthly fee, or $420 a year, on top of his regular Hydro bill.

Benoit recently received a letter in the mail from Hydro stating he and his wife needed to make a decision by Dec. 1 as to whether they wanted a smart meter, a smart meter with the radio turned off, or to keep their analog meter.

“We made a choice to keep our analog meter, which works perfectly well and investigated many of the issues around the smart meter program both pro and con,” Benoit said. “But now Hydro wants us to pay $35 a month above our regular bill for them to ensure their (our) grid works as planned.”

The power corporation said in a letter sent to all smart meter holdouts that the $35 fee to keep an old meter, as well as a $100 set-up fee and $20 monthly fee for those who choose a radio-off smart meter, “offset the expense of adding infrastructure to ensure BC Hydro’s electricity grid works as planned. The fees will also cover the cost of manually performing services now automated by smart meters. Costs will be reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission,” according to a letter from Greg Reimer, executive vice-president of transmission and distribution.

But Benoit disputes that BC Hydro is simply charging the fee to check their power grids.

“Hmm, my lights still work,” Benoit said. “I understand that old infrastructure needs repairing or replacement but it seems like they started with the meters. Could it be that they need to implement time-of-use as another layer of charges to help pay off their deficits?”

BC Hydro will be implementing the new monthly charge to old meter users as of Dec. 2 while those who choose a radio-off meter will start seeing additional charges starting April 1, 2014.

But while keeping an old meter is an option right now, Hydro says it can’t guarantee that will always be the case.

Old meters will be replaced if they break or if the meter’s measurement accuracy seal expires as long as the existing stock of old meters lasts.

As per Hydro’s traditional practice, those with old meters and radio-off meters will have a BC Hydro representative visit their property to measure consumption use. If a meter cannot be read, a customer’s bill will be estimated.

Benoit said he’s basically left with three options.

“Bend to this extortion and get a new meter…accept a new meter turned off and pay an installation fee along with a continuing monthly fee of $20 (or) keep the old analog meter and pay the extortion fee.”

Benoit said he would even be willing to send in his own meter readings each month to save Hydro from “estimating our bill.”

While Hydro has already sent out letters to customers informing them of the new charges should they refuse a smart meter, the proposed fees still have to be approved by the BC Utilities Commission.

BC Hydro says it has already installed more than 1.8 million smart meters around the province.