Energy Minister Bill Bennett issues order on BC Hydro meter fees

Fees must cover cost of reading old meters, turning radios off in smart meters and "failed installations" where technicians turned away

Energy Minister Bill Bennett

VICTORIA – Energy Minister Bill Bennett has issued a cabinet order to the B.C. Utilities Commission to make sure it approves fees high enough cover the costs of customers opting out of BC Hydro’s smart meter program.

The order in council, signed by Bennett and Environment Minister Mary Polak, instructs the independent regulator to approve extra fees sufficient to meet the cost of manually reading mechanical electricity meters that remain in use, or collecting readings from digital meters that have their radio transmitter turned off on request of the customer.

The order also directs the BCUC to approve fees to cover the costs of “failed installations,” either because the customer refused or because an obstacle was placed in the way of the installer.

A spokesman for Bennett confirmed that the BCUC may still decide to lower the opt-out fees proposed by BC Hydro, or it may increase them if costs warrant.

BC Hydro sent letters in September to about 60,000 residential customers who have refused wireless meters, giving them until December to choose. If customers insist on keeping their old meter, a $35 monthly fee applies effective Dec. 1.

If they accept a smart meter with the “radio off,” a $100 setup fee is proposed, followed by $20 a month to collect readings starting April 1.

If customers do not register a choice by Dec. 1, their meter will be left as is and the $35 monthly fee will be added to their bill.

As it does with rate increases, BC Hydro will start charging its proposed fees as it prepares to defend them before the BCUC. If the commission orders changes, bills would be adjusted accordingly, with refunds or extra charges added.