Higher bill? Answers to questions about BC Hydro bills and how new meters will help
More customers have questions about their BC Hydro bills during the winter months. Here are the most common reasons for why your bill may be higher than you expected and how new meters will help.
- Winter season: Cold weather and shorter, darker days can lead to customers using more heating and lighting.
- Cold weather: Weather data shows that the 2011/12 winter season has been colder than the previous year. In December, the province was 9 percent colder than last year and in January, parts of the province were as much as 8 percent colder than last year. On average, home heating can account for up to 50 per cent of a household’s electricity use so during cold, winter months, bills may be higher.
- More consumers: Changes in lifestyle or family situations can affect energy use. This can include a new baby, live-in relatives, new tenants or house guests.
- Home renovations: Changes or additions to a home that increase square footage, or add electric heating or heated floors. There could also be additional electricity used during the construction phase.
- More electronics: Adding new televisions, computers or electronic devices such as PVRs and video game consoles, or changing out a major appliance.
- Human error: BC Hydro’s meter reading and billing accuracy is at 99 per cent, however, on rare occasions, meters can be misread. This can lead to over-billing (or under-billing) in one billing period, which is adjusted when the meter is read at the next billing period and a correction or refund is issued. Meters operate on the same basis as a car’s odometer: it continues to accrue as consumption continues to register.
- Estimated readings: On occasion a meter is not manually read and BC Hydro issues an estimated bill based on previous consumption levels and “catches up” in a subsequent meter reading.
- Equal Payment Plans: When a customer pays through the Equal Payment Plan, monthly installments are based on the previous 12 months’ consumption. If consumption levels are different than expected, an adjustment is made to the account.
How will smart meters help reduce the chance of bill surprises?
- Smart meters will allow for automated meter reading. This will eliminate inaccurate meter reading and estimated bills. In addition, customers will be able to see if their equalized payments are keeping up with their overall consumption.
- The new meters will allow customers to access new tools to get insight into their energy consumption. A secure BC Hydro online account will provide access to consumption data that customers can use to find out more about their own energy habits and usage trends.
- In the winter months, BC Hydro typically experiences almost twice as many calls relating to high bills than during the rest of the year. In the vast majority of cases, BC Hydro is able to establish that higher bills are the result of increased consumption.
- In 2011, BC Hydro issued 13 million bills.
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