BCUC Approves Gas Smart Meters
June 1, 2023
On May 15, 2023, the BC Utilities Commission approved FortisBC Energy Inc.’s $750-million proposal to install smart meters for its 1.1 million natural gas customers in BC (Advanced Metering Initiative, or AMI). The four-and-a-half-year project will automate the reading of practically all meters in FEI’s service territory, almost all of which are currently read manually. While the project will cost about $750-million to implement, it will avoid about $322-million in operations and maintenance costs over the 26-year life of the project.
BCSEA intervened actively in the BCUC’s two-year regulatory proceeding. After reviewing the evidence and policy considerations, BCSEA stated in its final argument that the AMI project is in the public interest and should be approved. BCSEA concluded that the project has many important benefits, including customer access to detailed and timely consumption information, opportunities for new conservation and efficiency measures, GHG emissions reductions from reduced vehicle use for manual meter reading, cost savings, time-of-use data for enhanced system planning emergency response, and reduced gas losses from leaks, gas theft or meter tampering.
Opponents of wireless technology argued that the smart meter project would cause adverse health impacts. However, the BCUC determined, as it had done in its 2013 decision approving smart meters for the FortisBC electric utility, that the proposed metering and communications equipment would comply with Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 and that Safety Code 6 is applicable to the proposed equipment. BCSEA supported this determination, based on the extensive scientific evidence filed in the proceeding.
The BCUC also approved FEI’s proposal, supported by BCSEA, to provide an opt-out option for customers who do not want wireless technology to continue having their meter read manually, for a fee based on the extra cost.
For more information, see our September 2021 article “Smart Meters for FortisBC Gas Utility.”
By Bill Andrews and Tom Hackney