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Meter is now running on apartment plan

Toronto Star - September 9, 2004
by John Spears

Close to 2 million rental apartment and condominium units will get individual electricity meters as the Ontario government pursues plans for making individuals more responsible for their own power use, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan says.

But the province still hasn't fleshed out the costs and benefits of its plan to install millions of new meters and to replace existing ones with "smart meters" in homes across the province, Duncan said yesterday.

Many apartment and condominium buildings currently have only one meter for the entire building, with power bills averaged among residents regardless of how much power they waste or conserve.

Duncan is pushing to install individual meters so that individuals will be rewarded for using less power, or will pay more if they use large amounts.

"Once we break out meters in each individual apartment we're going to go from about 4 million to 6 million meters," he said in an interview. "We're looking at giving people power over their individual units."

The province wants to make sure the new meters are "smart meters" that record the date and time of day when electricity is used. That will enable utilities to charge householders higher prices for power during peak periods when the system is straining to serve all its customers, and encourage customers to shift non-essential consumption to off-peak times.

Duncan has said he wants to install 800,000 "smart meters" by 2007, and wants every household to have a smart meter by 2010. However, the province still can't produce precise numbers on the cost or benefit of meeting the targets. It's unclear how much the meters will cost, how sophisticated they will be, how much consumers will have to pay for them and whether it will be through an upfront charge or over time through higher rates.

The Ontario Energy Board is looking at the issue.

The province is looking closely at Italy, which is installing about 30 million new meters, Duncan said.

The Italians say the new meters provide better data about where the system leaks power, either though faulty equipment or theft such as "grow house" operations, he said.

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