VICTORIA Big Brother’s famous monitor will soon be installed in your home, but it will only be watching your electricity consumption.
BC Hydro has issued a call for qualifications to supply millions of new “smart meters” for electricity customers across the province within five years. The meters are a key part of the latest provincial energy plan, which requires the utility to meet half of all new electricity demand from now to 2020 by conservation.
The new meters will have an electronic display inside the home that “records consumption in more detail than a conventional electro-mechanical meter, and is capable of transmitting that information via a two-way telecommunications network into the customer premise and back to BC Hydro,” says the utility’s call for proposals.
This will allow customers to see the cost of starting up stoves, dishwashers and other appliances in real time. The meters could also be used to monitor power that is generated by things like solar panels on the roof and sold back to BC Hydro.
Smart meters could also be used to encourage customers to shift power use to off-peak periods. That strategy would require higher rates to be charged during the highest demand periods, especially early evening.
BC Hydro’s rate plans don’t yet include the variable rate, but already there is a shift of the cost burden from business and industry to residential consumers.
The B.C. Utilities Commission has authorized a rate structure that will see a 3.6 per cent rate increase for residential customers in each of the next three years. The first increase is to take effect on April 1, 2008, and BC Hydro estimates for most customers it will increase the monthly bill by $1 to $3.
Small commercial customers will see an annual decrease of 6.7 per cent in rates, and large commercial rates will decrease 2.2 per cent per year. Industrial rates will decrease 0.9 per cent, and the rate charged municipalities for street lights will decrease 7.2 per cent.
Power rates for irrigation will go up 6.4 per cent per year. BC Hydro says that is to phase out a historically subsidized rate extended to irrigation users such as municipalities, golf courses and farms.
BC Hydro says its rate plan for the next three years is revenue neutral overall.
As for the increase in residential rates of more than 10 per cent by 2010, BC Hydro president Bob Elton said last year that the average person can cut consumption by 10 per cent “just by deciding to do so.”
Energy saving tips:
Changing the five most-used light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights saves $25-40 per year;
Running the dishwasher without the dry cycle saves about $10 a year;
Changing from a top-loading washer to a front-loader saves $38 a year;
An Energy Star fridge saves about $36 a year compared to older frost-free models.