Wireless meters in test lab. BC Hydro is required to test meters annually to make sure they are accurately measuring electricity use.

Smart meter system finishes under budget

Officially complete for $777 million, wireless grid still needs rural extension using cellular networks to reach across B.C.

BC Hydro’s wireless grid system was officially complete at the end of 2015, with a total cost the Crown utility now projects to be $777 million.

That’s $153 million below the original budget, said Greg Reimer, executive vice president, transmission, distribution and customer service for BC Hydro. It includes all the elements required by the B.C. government when it ordered the installation of the smart meter system as part of its Clean Energy Act in 2010.

Reimer said in an interview the system has also exceeded the $70 million in savings projected for the first three years of operation.

“We’ve realized about $100 million in benefits during that time, particularly from operational savings,” Reimer said. “Customers are getting more accurate bills. We’ve reduced our manual meter reading reads and our bill estimates. Meter reading and billing is automated through the system.”

The smart grid had its severest test at the end of August 2015 when a windstorm brought down thousands of drought-weakened trees, leaving 700,000 customers on southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland without electricity.

Power was restored to all areas in five days, which was half the time it took to recover from the December 2006 windstorm that flattened trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Reimer said. The 2006 storm blacked out only half the number of homes of the 2015 event.

Reimer said the ability to test an entire power line after one break is repaired means the crew doesn’t have to drive the rest of the line, and can move to the next confirmed problem when repairing storm damage.

BC Hydro has defended its power theft savings after NDP energy critic Adrian Dix questioned them. In a recent letter to BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald, Dix said the company’s estimate of power theft by marijuana growers was “magically” inflated by then-energy minister Rich Coleman in 2006, then increased again in the utility’s 2011 business case for the wireless system.

[Dix letter here, Reimer response here]

Reimer said the business case projected a 75 per cent reduction in power theft, and the reduction for this fiscal year is projected at 80 per cent, as the smart grid detects actual power consumption and compares it to billed amounts.

While it’s officially complete, the smart grid requires ongoing maintenance and annual testing of meters to meet federal accuracy regulations. BC Hydro also plans to install more than 4,000 meters that use commercial cellular phone networks to send in readings.

Those are for locations with concrete basement meter rooms that can’t reach the grid, or rural areas where it is too expensive to extend the BC Hydro wireless grid, Reimer said.

There are still 13,320 BC Hydro customers who have refused to accept smart meters, opting to pay a monthly fee for manual meter reading of a mechanical meter or a wireless meter with the radio transmitter turned off.

 

Just Posted

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas says district is not backing out of multiplex project

The district will be holding a multiplex open house session Jan.29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Civic Centre.

Port Alice trailer goes up in flames in the early morning hours

The North Island Gazette will continue to update the story with more details as it progresses.

1041 customers without power due to outages in Northern Vancouver Island

Keep following the North Island Gazette for more on the power outages.

VIDEO: Sports Talk with Tyson: North Island Bantam Eagles are ready for provincials

Sports Talk with Tyson is back this week with an indepth look at the North Island Bantam Eagles.

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

No injuries after collapsed floor traps worker at former North Island mill – fire chief

Company says it’s investigating after incident at decommissioned Catalyst facility

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Most Read