New Brunswick

NB Power continues push for smart meters after EUB dismissal

NB Power's president and CEO is still convinced smart meters are the way of the future, despite the Energy and Utilities Board's finding that the plan isn't in the best interest of ratepayers.

Gaëtan Thomas says NB Power will reapply in 6 to 18 months to adopt smart meters across province

NB Power president Gaëtan Thomas says he believes the Energy and Utilities Board will see the benefits of smart meters next time around. (CBC)

NB Power's president and CEO is still convinced smart meters are the way of the future, despite the Energy and Utilities Board's finding that the plan isn't in the best interest of ratepayers. 

Last week, the board halted NB Power's plan to buy 350,000 meters and deploy them in customers' homes.

"Leading the way is not always easy for regulators in an uncertain future," NB Power president Gaëtan Thomas said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

"We're talking speed of change here and some of it may have been a little bit too fast at this stage."   

After hearings in the winter and spring, the EUB said the utility did not present a solid enough business case to justify the cost of the project after hearings last winter and spring.  

In a news release on Tuesday, Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet said the utility is expected to have a high level of business management expertise because it operates independently from government.

Government watching

As a result, he said the province will review the matter to ensure "NB Power is properly delivering on its mandate from New Brunswickers."

"When NB Power wants to invest money, it needs to demonstrate very clearly that its spending will benefit ratepayers," he said.

Thomas said NB Power is in constant communication with government. 

"I think our shareholders have a right to review our performance," he said. "When we look at the smart meters, we certainly put the best case we had at the time."

The board ruled NB Power did not present a solid enough case to justify the $100 million smart meter plan. (Radio-Canada)

The request to adopt smart meters provincewide was a central focus of the utility's rate application this year.

The $122 million smart meter program would have wirelessly connected to the utility's smart grid and calculated energy usage more accurately, while also allowing customers to plan their energy use better during the day.

"Even if you don't win every point with the regulator, we have put [in] a credible case and we will continue to work to improve it," he said.

"At the end of the day NB Power works for the customers of New Brunswick."

Will work on business case

Thomas said most rate hearings today are about new technology for the future.

"When you look at where you are today most regulators in the country and in North America … it's difficult for them to actually look at, 'How do we invest in things that are 10 to 12 year payback?" he said.  

Thomas said the utility will return to the drawing board to make a stronger business case for smart meters, adding the EUB ruling has allowed the utility to prepare for the future, which will help bring the regulator onto the smart meter band wagon.

Reapplication could take between six and 18 months.

"We believe the regulator will see the benefits when we bring it back forward in the future," he said.  

Will present benefits better

He said some of the major benefits are hard to quantify right now, such as knowing exactly when customers are out of power and discovering other problems on the grid when power is restored.

But he said those benefits will be included in the new business plan and will be worth millions of dollars down the road.

"If we were presenting it today, we would certainly add and quantify some of those values," he said.

"We do believe there will be value for our customers in the future."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of the story referred to the Smart Grid Innovation Network, but it is not related to the Energy and Utilities Board ruling or the grid that Gaëtan Thomas is talking about.
    Jul 25, 2018 7:18 PM AT

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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