Are smart meters to blame for ballooning hydro bills?
Published Sunday, March 4, 2012 6:39PM PST
CTV News has been flooded with hundreds of emails claiming smart meters are to blame for ballooning hydro bills, but some number crunching may reveal a different story.
When Carlo Magno bought his Richmond apartment last year, he installed CFL light bulbs, Energy Star appliances and dimmers to be as energy efficient as possible. So he was stunned when his hydro bill jumped from $93 before his smart meter was set up to $172 and then $241 on his most recent bill.
"I think it's the smart meter that's not working properly," Magno said about the rising costs.
But BC Hydro says they always have more billing-related calls in the winter.
"It's not just smart meter customers that are coming to us with high bills, and nothing has changed with the other customers other than weather and consumption pattern changes," said Jim Nicholson, BC Hydro's director of customer care.
CTV News compared Magno's hydro usage in his old apartment to the new one during the same billing period, and both are roughly the same size. He's now paying two to 18 per cent a month more than for his old place, but Magno hasn't realized his costs more than doubled there as well from the period between early fall to winter -- the 165 per cent increase is essentially the same jump as this year.
Eight per cent of the increased cost is due to the April 2011 rise in hydro rates.
Weeks after BC Hydro customer Susan McDonnell had her smart meter installed, she received a bill for $745 for her one-bedroom condo, which was a far cry from the $61 monthly bill she had on BC Hydro's equalization plan.
The utility company says in her case she was paying too little before and has to play catch up.
"I don't know where to go with this. All they keep saying is, 'Suck it up and pay the bill,'" McDonnell said.
McDonnell's only recourse is to file a complaint with the BC Utilities Commission, which is something Magno has done already. The commission told him he can also pay $100 for an official Measurement Canada assessment of his smart meter, but he's not going for it.
Like may smart meter opponents, no amount of number crunching will wipe out his health concerns and anger over having the device in the first place.
"This is the ultimate point: they should give me a choice whether to install that smart meter or not," Magno said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Penny Daflos