BC Hydro customers who refuse to part with their mechanical power meters will continue to pay $32.40 a month for manual meter readings, with a refund on the balance of the $35 they’ve been paying since December.
The B.C. Utilities Commission ruled on BC Hydro’s smart meter opt-out fees Friday, after an order from the B.C. government required the regulator to approve fees covering all of BC Hydro’s costs.
A $20 a month charge will continue for BC Hydro customers who accept a digital meter with the radio transmission function turned off. The commission cut the one-time fee for disabling the meter radio to $22.60, far below BC Hydro’s proposed $100.
Most of BC Hydro’s nearly two million customers now have fully functioning smart meters, which send daily readings to a collection network and signal when power goes out and comes back on.
A few customers cling to theories that the meters present a health hazard, despite evidence that their signals are weaker than the natural background of radio frequency signals even in remote areas.
BC Hydro’s meter upgrade was exempted from review, but the commission ruled last year on similar equipment for FortisBC’s electrical grid in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions.
Commissioners rejected testimony from smart meter opponents, noting that their spokesmen were unqualified and in most cases repeating false or exaggerated claims in order to sell solutions to the purported hazards.
BC Hydro spent nearly $1 billion to upgrade its grid, forecasting savings from automatic meter reading to faster detection of outages and elimination of power theft from meter bypasses.
The commission also reduced fees for customers who move and request a radio-off meter at their new address. To switch from a mechanical meter to a radio-off meter will cost $77.60, reduced from the BC Hydro’s proposed $100. Going from one radio-off meter to another will cost $132.60, down from the proposed $155 that includes activating the meter in the former residence.