Jul 29, 2012 / 12:25 pm
FortisBC took the first step in changing the way it serves its customers by filing an application with the BC Utilities Commission on Thursday.
Fortis seeks to undertake a $48 million overhaul of its electrical grid with the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project.
FortisBC spokesperson Neil Pobran says there are many benefits to the program.
"Something like $19 million in expected savings will be returned to customers. Customers won't have to phone us about power outages because we'll know where those occur, and for the first time get information about their electricity in real time."
The project will also make it much more difficult for anyone to steal electricity from Fortis, saving the corporation an estimated $3.7 million.
If Fortis receives a positive decision, the utility would proceed to upgrade its electrical grid by exchanging close to 115,000 manually read meters with advanced meters and incorporating the supporting hardware and software. Meter exchanges would begin in 2014 and be complete by the end of 2015.
"We are calling them advanced meters, but they are similar to the smart meters," says Pobran.
The implementation of the smart meter program by BC Hydro has not been without its controversy, as some customers have been very vocal in their opposition to the wireless meter system, raising concerns over health issues.
However, Pobran says FortisBC believes there is a large amount of data which refutes that claim.
"We're looking and following the experts in the field in BC. We're looking at information from the provincial health officer, and BC Cancer Agency. We would ask your readers to go online and look at these and read for themselves. A lot of these agencies have said that smart meters are safe," says Pobran.
"We also think that the regulatory process will be a good venue for any sort of this opinion to come up."
Pobran also notes, the timing of the project corresponds with new standards from Measurement Canada requiring greater meter accuracy.
The enhanced accuracy requirements will require FortisBC to exchange approximately 80,000 electromechanical meters with digital meters whether the AMI project goes ahead or not.
The use of advanced meters could also expand beyond FortisBC's electrical division.
Pobran says they are evaluating the business case for advanced meters for natural gas, but at this time has no plans for a similar deployment of remote gas meter reading technology.
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