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Smart meters essential to modernizing BC Hydro's grid

BC Hydro Deputy CEO and Executive Vice President Bev Van Ruyven.

Posted by Bev Van Ruyven

BC Hydro has been in the business of delivering safe, reliable electricity to our customers for 50 years. We are looking forward to the next 50 years by introducing new technology and systems such as smart meters.

The world is moving at a rapid pace. Technology is changing – it seems like every day we are seeing new electronic devices and tools. Technology has changed the way we communicate, made services more convenient and raised expectations for the speed and quality of those services.

Virtually every industry has gone digital, except for the one that the others rely on: the electricity system. Without new investment in technology and systems, the 20th century electricity system will be unable to support 21st century innovations such as solar panels, electric vehicles and increased customer service options.

What does a modern electricity system look like?

A modern electricity system will move us away from the traditional way we have delivered electricity for the past 50 years. Currently we have large generating facilities that are located far away from many of our customers, or the "load". The electricity travels along thousands of kilometres of transmission lines, with large energy losses along the way.

We are moving to a future where there are thousands of small electricity sources throughout the province. For example in the future, customers could generate their own electricity through solar panels and sell their excess electricity back onto the grid or use their electric vehicle as a back-up source of electricity during an outage. Those small sources of electricity generation can help provide safe and reliable electricity for British Columbia well into the future.

Our transformation to a more modern electricity grid will begin with the installation of 1.8 million digital smart meters into homes and businesses throughout the province.

This week marks the release of the business case for the Smart Metering Program [PDF, 550 KB]. It explains the financial case for the program, details the scope, and describes the benefits that will be realized throughout the system and by our customers as a result of this investment. Because there are more benefits than costs the Smart Metering Program will pay for itself and help to keep rates lower than they would be if we did not invest in smart metering.

What are the benefits of the program?

The Smart Metering Program will:

  • Improve safety and reliability through faster and precise outage notification and a reduction in the damage caused by illegal electricity diversions.
  • Enhance customer service by reporting electricity use more accurately, eliminating estimated bills, simplifying the process of opening and closing an account when moving, and reducing the need for onsite visits by field crews.
  • Reduce electricity theft that amounts to approximately $100 million a year in lost revenue – costs that are borne by legitimate BC Hydro customers.
  • Improve operational efficiency and reduce wasted electricity through voltage optimization. Lower operating costs are passed on to all customers in lower rates
  • Support greater customer choice and control by offering optional in-home feedback tools that provide direct and timely information to customers about their electricity consumption.
  • Help modernize British Columbia's electricity system by replacing nearly obsolete meters, and creating the foundation for supporting new uses of electricity such as electric vehicles, customer generation and microgrids.

What can you expect in the coming months?

The smart meter installation process will be simple. In the coming months, you will receive more information about the program and the installation of smart meters in your community.

Installation will begin in June in various communities throughout the province and BC Hydro will ensure that you have access to the information you need. Our customer communications will be timely and thorough, and will remain our top priority throughout.

Thank you.

Bev Van Ruyven is BC Hydro Deputy CEO and Executive Vice President.

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