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

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 female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Staff and volunteers at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea were disappointed by the theft of an educational porpoise skull likely taken on Jan. 8. (Courtesy of Tina Kelly)
Well-loved porpoise skull stolen from Sidney aquarium

Skull had been used for youth and visitor education and outreach for years

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

An Oak Bay Police officer handed out five tickets for “fail to obey stop sign” and two tickets for using a cell phone while driving, all within two hours at King George Terrace on Jan. 11. (Oak Bay Police Twitter)
Man confronts unmasked group at Oak Bay Marina

Oak Bay police issue plenty of tickets in short King George Terrace visit

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Most Read