I have seen many letters to the editor about the new smart meters which are being installed by BC Hydro. I have a new issue with them and would like to add my experience as a warning to anyone who has had one installed and is seeing higher than normal readings on your bill.
In early December our home had a smart meter installed and all seemed fine - until the first bill arrived.
The usage for the first few days of the month seemed normal. The usage from the day of the smart meter install onwards was dramatically higher than our normal usage - about 1,000 KWH more than our normal usage for the month of December! This was obviously incorrect, and I immediately contacted customer service to see what was happening.
The customer service rep I spoke to was adamant that there could be no error. Smart meters give a completely accurate reading and therefore it must have been my old meter that was inaccurate! The insinuation was that we had not previously been paying enough for the actual power we had used, and that now we were finally being charged correctly. I continued to insist that there was no way we could have used the amount of power indicated on our bill, and that the smart meter needed to be rechecked. The rep informed me that BC Hydro will not come out "just to check on a high bill."
Getting nowhere with the brick wall of customer "service", I asked to speak with a supervisor. The supervisor also seemed doubtful about my concerns, so he asked me to go outside and check the current reading on the meter. I dutifully trudged out in the rain, obtained the information he wanted, and read it back to him. After a very long wait, he came back on the line and admitted that there was an error! Smart meters do not transmit an automatic reading to BC Hydro. They still require a meter reader to come out and visually read them, and then manually enter that reading into their handheld computer. Obviously, the person who read our meter either misread it or entered it incorrectly into their computer. As a result, we were billed for significantly more electricity than what we should have been, and at a much higher rate than normal due to the stepped rate structure in use at BC Hydro. The supervisor advised me he would correct my bill with their accounting department to reflect the correct usage. This entire exercise took over an hour of my time on the phone, including holding time waiting for an available representative.
Interestingly, BC Hydro's website states that those handheld computers used by the meter readers "signal the meter reader when an incorrect number or higher than usual reading is entered." Obviously, our meter reader just ignored this warning and entered the extra 1,000 kwh to our reading anyway!
So, to everyone who has had a smart meter installed, take this as a warning that your bill may well be incorrect and that customer service at BC Hydro will be unwilling to do anything about it when you call unless you strongly insist they do so. If you pay your monthly bill in full by automatic debit, you will find your account missing more money than usual on your next statement. Also, because of BC Hydro's policy of "stepped" rates for higher power usage, you will have been billed at a higher rate for the power you did not really use, so be sure to check your bill closely and make sure the credit they issue you is for the full amount, including the higher step rate they charged you for - not just at the rate for the lower initial step.