Pictou County residents can expect to see smart meters measuring their home electricity usage within two years, after the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board gave the go-ahead to NS Power to install them.
The $133 million project will upgrade all existing meters in the province to smart meters and NS Power says it will come at no extra cost to customers. Once the new smart meter network is ready, customers will receive information about their daily energy use, more efficient power restoration during outages and more accurate billing by virtually eliminating bill estimates.
“By 2020 we would expect to be fully deployed across the province,” said Karen Hutt, NS Power’s CEO and president.
The latest smart meter technology will capture customers’ energy use in intervals as frequently as 15 minutes.
This data will be sent several times a day to Nova Scotia Power through an encrypted and private wireless network that will be built as part of the project, whereas current meters require in-person readings.
“Customer privacy and security of information is absolutely central for us,” Hutt told The News.
After reviewing the UARB’s decision and conditions included as part of regulatory approval Nova Scotia Power plans to spend the next year building and testing the secure communication network as part of the project.
During this time, meter installation planning will also be underway and more information will be sent to customers on how best to use their smart meters.
NS Power says that customers will be contacted well in advance of any installation activity, which is expected to begin in late 2019.
According to the UARB, roughly $56.8 million in savings will come over the next 20 years from lower costs of reading meters. The number of staff needed to read meters will fall by about 72 people.
According to NS Power, such savings will help give its customers rate stability.
“We’re really in a very good position,” said Hutt.
Smart meters were also welcomed by the Ecology Action Centre, who said in a release Tuesday that smart meters are “an integral component to Nova Scotia’s transition off of fossil fuels.”
But the EAC added that energy efficiency programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be a part of the transition to smart metering.
The UARB says that customers who do not wish to have new meters installed will be able to continue with their current meters, but there may be a fee for opting out.
The UARB directed NS Power to provide details on opting out and how it will inform customers, by Aug. 31. NS Power must also to provide information on health and safety standards relating to the new meters to any customer who asks.