McGuinty touting smart meters use

Gillian Livingston
The London Free Press
March 27, 2004

Smart meters the province hopes to put in Ontario homes would encourage people to run their dishwashers in the middle of the night to save on their energy bills, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday. Though residents have to pay part of the cost to install the meters, they will save money in the long run through a planned revamped billing system that would reward the energy-conscious, McGuinty said.

“If you put your dishwasher on at three o’clock in the morning, although that is good for energy generation in the province of Ontario, we don’t (currently) reward you financially for doing so,” McGuinty said before a cabinet retreat.

“We’re not charging you lesser rates for using electricity at off-peak periods.”

The smart meters, which measure when consumers use their electricity so they can get cheaper rates in off-peak hours such as late at night, are part of the province’s conservation plan to cut power use by five per cent by 2007, McGuinty said.

Every smart meter “will pay for itself,” he added, with the cost covered by a small monthly charge.

“It’s all designed to ensure that you are in fact saving money over the long term.”

But there’s no date for when Ontario will begin installing the meters.

There’s also no decision on what kind of smart meters the province could use.

There are a number of different types of meters that can help consumers cut their electricity use, said Tom Adams, executive director of Energy Probe.

Woodstock Hydro has a pay-as-you-go system for about 2,600 residential customers.

Consumers use a pre-paid card to buy electricity so they know how much it costs to run appliances. It also helps the utility cut down on bad debts.

It costs about $500 for the utility to put in a meter.

Another technology is an interval meter, which has a microchip in it to count how much electricity is being consumed and when.

But Adams said there’s no point spending money on new meters if the province keeps a cap on electricity prices, because that lessens the financial incentive for consumers to conserve.

“If we’ve got smart meters but dumb prices, we’re not going to get the benefit of these better meters,” he said.

“The real issue here is what are the Liberals going to do with electricity prices,” Adams asked.

The meters most Ontarians have count electricity use, at a cost of about $7 a year ameter. Interval meters cost about $100 a year, Adams said.

An increase in electricity prices comes into effect Thursday. The rate will be 4.7 cents a kilowatt hour for the first 750 units used by a household, and will rise to 5.5 cents after that level. The previous cap was 4.3 cents.

The province’s conservation plan, a topic of discussion at yesterday’s cabinet retreat, will be “progressive, aggressive, bold and ambitious,” McGuinty said.


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