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Smart meters to modernize BC Hydro's grid

BC Energy Minister Steve Thomson with new smart meter (left) and existing electro-mechanical meter — photo courtesy BC Hydro.

By Bev Van Ruyven

BC Hydro’s transformation to a more modern electricity grid will begin with the installation of 1.8 million digital smart meters into homes and businesses throughout the province.

This week marks the release of the business case for the Smart Metering Program  [PDF, 550 Kb]. It explains the financial case for the program, details the scope, and describes the benefits that will be realized throughout the system.

Because there are more benefits than costs the Smart Metering Program is expected to pay for itself and help to keep rates lower than they would be if smart metering was not undertaken.   

Such a modern electricity system will move away from the traditional way electricity has been delivered for the past 50 years.

Currently BC Hydro has large generating facilities that are located far away from many customers, or the “load.”  The electricity travels along thousands of kilometres of transmission lines, with large energy losses along the way.

We are moving to a future where there are thousands of small electricity sources throughout the province. For example in the future, customers could generate their own electricity through solar panels and sell their excess electricity back onto the grid or use their electric vehicle as a back-up source of electricity during an outage.

Those small sources of electricity generation can help provide safe and reliable electricity for British Columbia well into the future.


What are the benefits of the program?

• Improve safety and reliability through faster and precise outage notification and a reduction in the damage caused by illegal electricity diversions.

• Enhance customer service by reporting electricity use more accurately, eliminating estimated bills, simplifying the process of opening and closing an account when moving, and reducing the need for onsite visits by field crews.

• Reduce electricity theft that amounts to approximately $100 million a year in lost revenue.

• Improve operational efficiency and reduce wasted electricity through voltage optimization.

• Support greater customer choice and control by offering optional in-home feedback tools that provide direct and timely information to customers about their electricity consumption.

• Help modernize British Columbia’s electricity system by replacing nearly obsolete meters, and creating the foundation for supporting new uses of electricity such as electric vehicles, customer generation and microgrids.


What is coming up in the next few months?

The smart meter installation process will be simple.

In the coming months, people will receive more information about the program and the installation of smart meters in each community.

Installation will begin in June in various communities throughout the province and BC Hydro will ensure people have access to the information they need.

Bev Van Ruyven is BC Hydro deputy CEO and executive vice president.