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Ontario hydro customers could have to pay $2.3 billion for smart meters

Canadian Press - October 29, 2004
by Keith Leslie

TORONTO -- Ontario electricity consumers may end up paying $2.3 billion to install so-called smart meters in homes and businesses, but the government hopes the savings they generate will mean the meters end up paying for themselves.

The meters would allow the province to introduce variable pricing schemes for electricity, giving consumers the choice to reduce their bills by using appliances during off-peak hours when power demand is substantially lower.

The Ontario Energy Board estimates the province would have to install 3.8 million of the sophisticated meters, which cost up to $600 each.

"There are costs associated with new meters," Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said Thursday. "It'll be a function of which ones you choose, what gadgets they have on them."

"We're still a long way from knowing who will pay, (and) what the cost will be. We know this: that over time there will be savings to consumers small and large." Duncan said Italy found enough savings from introducing smart meters across the country that consumers did not have to pay for them. "The system savings have made it such that individual consumers (in Italy) don't have to pay for that," he said.

However, NDP Leader Howard Hampton said smart meters were a financial disaster in California, where they reduced energy consumption by a feeble 31 megawatts. "Meters themselves don't do anything," Hampton said. "To invest $2.3 billion in something that was frankly a dismal failure in California is not a good starting point."

Instead of smart meters, Hampton advocates low-interest government loans to help homeowners replace old, inefficient appliances with new, high-efficiency ones. "That way you can reduce electricity consumption almost overnight," Hampton said. "That would be a far better strategy, and it would be less costly."

Duncan said people will know "in fairly short order" the type of meters the government plans to use after he receives a report from the Ontario Energy Board. "I've directed the OEB to study this information, and now we have to look at all the ramifications and make decisions," he said.

The board said the cost of a $600 meter billed over a five-year period would likely add about $10 a month to the average consumer's electricity bill.

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