Ontario has become notorious for bad energy policy decisions, from leaky nuclear plants and brownouts, to a costly green energy subsidy deal with Samsung, to a pair of hastily cancelled gas-fired power plants that helped push former premier Dalton McGuinty from office.
So it was no surprise to weary Ontario electricity ratepayers when Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk wrapped up 2014 with a report condemning the province’s wireless smart meter program for a $1 billion cost overrun and failure to reach the program’s goal of reducing power consumption.
Unlike BC Hydro’s wireless meter program, Ontario used the smart grid’s real-time consumption data to offer discounts for off-peak power consumption, hoping to ease the load on its outdated power grid while giving customers some relief from soaring rates. But few embraced the incentive to run their clothes dryers late at night to save money.
Diehard smart meter opponents in B.C. jumped at the bad news from Ontario. Their theories of sudden billing surges, vague health concerns and even smart meter surveillance have all been debunked, but here they had a credible voice saying they are a waste of money.
Alas for them, Lysyk held up B.C.’s smart meter program as the model Ontario should have followed.
The Ontario government “did not complete any cost-benefit analysis or business case prior to making the decision to mandate the installation of smart meters,” the auditor wrote. “This is in contrast to other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, Germany, Britain and Australia, all of which assessed the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of their smart metering programs.”
Lysyk’s report also noted BC Hydro developed its business case in 2006, updated it in 2010 as meter technology evolved, and implemented it in 2011 with a plan to recover costs over 20 years. BC Hydro’s savings come mainly from reduced electricity theft, faster location of power outages and more accurate load management.
B.C. also responded to the anti-smart meter holdouts with an optional fee to cover manual meter readings for those who insisted the cellphone-like data transmissions are a threat to their health.