BCUC approves fee structure for FortisBC customers who want signals turned off on new smart meters

By on January 8, 2014

Prices have been set for property owners who will be “opting out” of the controversial Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project being initiated by FortisBC over the next two years.

The British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) has approved the fees that will be charged to FortisBC customers who opt for the “radio-off option” when the AMI project, better known as smart meters, are installed for 130,000 customers starting in the late spring or early summer of 2014.

The fees approved by the BCUC for FortisBC customers are.

• A per-household set-up fee of $60 for those who choose a radio-off AMI meter before meter upgrades begin in their region.

• A per-household set-up fee of $88 for those who choose a radio-off meter after meter upgrades begin in their region.

• A bi-monthly per-read fee of $18 or $9 per month.

The radio-off option gives customers who have concerns about advanced meters the choice to receive a smart meter with the radio transmission disabled, said David Wylie, a spokesperson for FortisBC.

“Approved fees recover only the cost of providing our customers with the radio-off option and they will not provide FortisBC with additional revenue,” he said.

The radio-off fees are necessary to ensure that the benefits customers enjoy from the smart meter project are not reduced, he said.

The utility company expects to upgrade its first electric meter in the summer of 2014 and will be upgrading meters by region, with work expected to be completed by the end of 2015, said Wylie.

FortisBC is developing its meter exchange plan and will be providing these details to the BCUC by the end of January.

“At that point, we will have a better understanding of specific dates for customers and which regions we will be working in over the coming months,” he said.

FortisBC plans on keeping its customers well informed about when they can expect their meter to be upgraded by providing regular news releases and information on its website, said Wylie.

After months of public hearings, the BCUC gave FortisBC approval in the fall to introduce the AMI project to all of its customers in southern B.C.

Thousands of B.C. residents attended the public hearings and hundreds made complaints over their concerns relating to the release of electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) waves emitted from smart meters.

While FortisBC has insisted all along that these meters are safe and have received approval from Health Canada, the company decided to allow customers to opt out and have the radio signals from the meters turned off following approval for the project by the BCUC.

Within weeks of announcing they would allow customers to opt out and have the radio signals turned off, FortisBC applied to the BCUC to charge fees to those customers who choose to opt out.

Wylie said FortisBC has attempted to be “very transparent” throughout the entire public hearing process and realized many people wanted the option to have the radio signals turned off and the company has listened to those concerns.

The fees being charged will cover the costs of installing the meters and turning the radio signals off, he reiterated.

The $9 monthly fee to have the meters with radio signals turned off isn’t unreasonable and should not provide any excessive burden to customers, he said.

For more information about the AMI project or the radio-off option, visit the website at www.fortisbc.com/ami or call toll-free at 1-866-436-7847.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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