Are EPCOR smart meters too smart? Edmonton customer raises privacy concerns

Tony Morneau is worried EPCOR's smart meters encroaches upon his privacy and he is willing to pay $15.20 a month to prevent it.

‘I don’t like the idea of Big Brother monitoring anything about me and electric usage is one of those things'

Tony Morneau opted out of EPCOR's new smart meter program.

When Tony Morneau got a knock on his door in September he was surprised to see a worker ready to install a smart meter. 

EPCOR is replacing its 370,000 electricity meters throughout Edmonton.

Instead of a meter reader coming to each home every month, smart meters, also called advanced meters, transmit daily readings broken down into hourly increments.

Morneau feels that EPCOR having that information is an invasion of his privacy.

"I know with the smart reader system any individual's electric consumption can be measured continuously. It raises privacy concerns.

"For example EPCOR could tell whether or not you're home if your consumption is very low for a period of time, or if you're on vacation. I don't like the idea of Big Brother monitoring anything about me and electric usage is one of those things."

Morneau opted out of the smart meter program, but doing so came at an extra cost.

He'll be charged an extra $15.20 on his electric bill each month.

"Why does a company like EPCOR who makes millions and millions of dollars in profit, feel it necessary to charge people who opt out of their smart meter program $15.20 a month.

"It makes no sense when they have a website that allows customers to enter their own data."

A smart meter attached to a house and hydro lines in the background.
EPCOR is replacing 370,000 meters throughout the City of Edmonton. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Morneau is not the first to worry about smart meters.

There was a failed class action lawsuit against smart meters in British Columbia, claiming they were a 'violation of personal liberty.'

Rob Reimer, EPCOR's director of metering and wholesale energy, says they've taken privacy issues into consideration.

"All of that information that is being transmitted is protected.

"Subsequent to that, even if someone were able to hack into that, there is no private customer information, or address information that's being transmitted. It's only usage information and the meter number."

As for the extra fee for those who opt out, Reimer says it's to keep meter readers in business and to verify the numbers entered in the online tool.

"That covers the manual cost of reading the meter, the administration, the validation. All of the things that go outside of the advanced metering systems."

Reimer says the aim of the smart meters is to save consumers money.

"It's a cost-operational savings initiative that we're doing in our territory, and other jurisdictions across North America are doing right now," Reimer said.

"The sole purpose is to cut operating costs and pass those savings onto customers."

Morneau says he'll continue to opt out despite the cost, he'd rather keep his information private.