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`Smart meters' will cost us

But Premier touts hydro savings
Subsidy for those with low incomes

Toronto Star - March 27, 2004
by Robert Benzie — Queen's Park Bureau

Ontario homeowners will have to pay for the installation of "smart meters" that monitor their electricity use and encourage energy conservation, Premier Dalton McGuinty says.

McGuinty promised yesterday that low-income earners would receive provincial subsidies for the meters, which can cost up to $500, but said everyone else would have to buy their own.

Asked whether consumers would have to pay some of the cost of the smart meters, the Premier replied: "Yes. But it will pay for itself. You're looking at a very small monthly charge and it's all designed to ensure that you are in fact saving money over the long term."

At present, most homeowners' meters record the kilowatt hours of power used between readings.

Smart meters — or interval meters — record when the power was used so the consumer is charged the actual price of electricity at the time it was used.

Right now, the Premier said, if an Ontario resident puts a dishwasher on at three a.m., that's good for energy generation in Ontario but he'll get no reward for doing so. Under the new system, smart meters will ensure Ontarians pay less for power at off-peak rates.

The Premier said his government would announce next week measures it will take to promote conservation and urge people to change their energy-use habits.New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos said McGuinty should focus instead on aggressively promoting conservation.

"Electricity rates are going to skyrocket," Kormos said. "Now the government's telling homeowners that they've got to ... pick up the tab for so-called smart meters."

Effective Thursday, the price of electricity is rising to 4.7 cents a kilowatt hour from 4.3 cents for the first 750 kilowatt hours. Each additional kilowatt hour will cost 5.5 cents.

The government is expected to set out next week a financial assistance plan for low-income Ontarians hurt by the hike.

With files from Caroline Mallan and Richard Brennan

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