All homes to get ‘Smart Meters’ by 2010

Local residents, along with the rest of Ontario, will be able to keep a closer eye on their energy consumption after the province announced last week it aims to spend $1 billion to install “smart meters” in every home by the year 2010.
“The concept of the meters is they’re interval, or time of use, meters. This means they’ll record energy consumption in a customer’s house or business based on certain intervals,” said Jim Kibiuk, CEO and president of the Fort Frances Power Corp.
“Depending on how the meters are set up, it could be every one minute, every five minutes, every hour, and so forth,” Kibiuk added.
“The government feels that if the smart meters are implemented throughout Ontario, people will have better information on their power consumption habits.
“That will be through a database the government is going to put in place and people will be able to access,” he noted. “They’ll be able to go on-line and see their consumption for the past 24 hours.”
Kibiuk noted the idea is to get the public to “load shift,” or understand that there are peak times for electricity usage and instead use power at alternate times to reduce demand on the energy supply.
Basically, by lowering the demand at certain times, this should lower the prices of electricity—saving everyone money.
“The concept is you provide people with better information,” said Kibiuk. “It’s up to the individual. Whether people will change their habits or not, who knows at this point?
“But the idea is if you have a more educated customer, they can make decisions as to how they want to proceed,” he remarked.
Kibiuk said the province wants all Ontarians using the meters by 2010, with 800,000 smart meters to be installed by 2007. But it’s hard to say exactly when they will be implemented here.
“Currently, in southern Ontario, there are some pilot projects underway,” noted Kibiuk. “They’ve installed, in some of the communities, up to 500 or 1,000 smart meters.
“They’re testing not only the meters, but the communications systems and the databases that will be required,” he said.
“Until they can sort through all that, I think we won’t see direction on technology or protocol that will be required by utilities such as ours,” he added.
“Larger customers presently use interval meters like this, but they’re strictly tied in through the phone line. As far as the average resident, we’re not going to see it within the next year or so.”
Kibiuk said even when the province is ready to go with the large-scale implementation of the smart meter system, it will take a while.
“If you can imagine us having to go out and replace every meter in town, it’s going to take some time,” he stressed. “It’s going to be an undertaking not only for the province, but for utilities such as the FFPC.
“At the end of the day, we will own, maintain, and be responsible for the meters at the customers’ location,” he added. “As far as the communications system and the database, that’s where the province is setting up a separate entity.”
The installation of the new meters, which will allow utilities to charge consumers based on the time of day they use their power, was set out in new legislation introduced Thursday by Energy minister Donna Cansfield.
Cansfield said in a press release that consumers will be expected to pay an extra $1-$4 a month to cover the costs of the electricity-use readers.
But she noted consumers ultimately will save on their hydro bills since the meters will help consumers monitor how much electricity they use at any time and save money by running appliances during off-peak hours, when demand and prices are lower.
Cansfield also plans to introduce legislation that will require any agency receiving government funding to report on their energy consumption and any progress made in reducing electricity use.
In addition to the legislation introduced last week, the government also has issued directives to the Ontario Power Authority to produce three programs that will further boost energy conservation in Ontario.
The province reported these programs are expected to reduce overall electricity consumption by as much as 200 megawatts—enough power for 125,000 homes.
These programs are:
•A low-income and social housing program building upon the ministry’s successful pilots on energy conservation and demand-side management with various organizations;
•An appliance exchange program that will encourage electricity consumers to replace energy inefficient appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and freezers; and
•A conservation outreach and education program targeting residential and small- and medium-size enterprises that would promote energy-efficient lighting technologies and efficient lighting design.