Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why offering choice to have an old meter or a smart meter does not work

Various people have said that the public should have a choice on keeping their old meter or getting a smart meter.   This is not physically possible.

Smart meters are only part of the upgrading of the whole grid by BC Hydro but they are a required part.   Without the smart meter at the customer end there are many of the benefits of a smart grid that do not work.   Things like regulation of voltage does not work, theft detection does not work, and automated notification of power outages can not take place.

The point of going to a smart grid is to use our electrical power resources more efficiently which becomes hard to do if many of the benefits of the smart grid can not be done because some people are using non-smart meters.   Over the years we have upgraded technologies meaning older technology can not longer be used.   It happens and will continue to happen.

What people also have to remember is that BC Hydro is replacing their equipment.   The meters are not owned by the public, they are owned by BC Hydro.   There is no issue of choice in any case if you do not own the meter.   You do not own any part of the electrical grid and that grid starts at the meter on your house.

As it is, the old meters have a lifespan of about 25 years, some have last longer but the standards of accuracy from Measurement Canada are becoming stricter which means the old electro-mechanical meters will fail the testing sooner.   Each year BC Hydro has been replacing about 45,000 meters because they no longer function correctly, this number would have risen dramatically over the next few years as almost all the meters from the 1960s, 70s and early 80s would all have to be replaced.

Also, the electro-mechanical meters are no longer manufactured in any case.   For a few years now all the meters installed by BC Hydro have been digital meters, though not the wireless smart meters.

To be clear, it is not an option to return to a meter reading model of measuring power use.  

The other option suggested is that there be a wired option instead of a wireless option.   I assume technically this is possible but the cost would be much higher because of the need of a wired connection to something else.   It also mean having to have two different systems to monitor the grid.   The lack of consistency would mean there would be higher operating costs and more on going problems.

Spending large amounts of money to build a less robust and less consistent grid would be a serious breach of the fiduciary obligation of the BC Hydro to manage their resources well for the benefit of the people of BC.
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