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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

More than 250 riders took part in the fifth annual Tripleshot CrossFondo, which riders across parts of the Saanich Peninsula, including this field near Sluggett Farms. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tripleshot CrossFondo rides across Saanich Peninsula

More than 250 cyclists took part in mystery-course race

City of Victoria crews will soon be gathering up fallen leaves in neighbourhoods and city parks. First up on the pickup list are the James Bay, Fairfield, Rockland, Gonzales and South Jubilee neighbourhoods, starting Oct. 19. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria city leaf pickup a sure sign of fall

Residential pickup begins Oct. 19, drop-offs can happen anytime at city yard

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read