New Brunswick

Smart meters already in use in New Brunswick

NB Power may be struggling to convince the Energy and Utilities Board to let it invest in smart meters but the province's municipal utilities - who don't answer to the board - have already put thousands of the devices into service without controversy.

The meters NB Power wishes to install are already used by municipal utilities in Saint John, Perth-Andover

Saint John Energy has 9,816 smart meters in service in the city, covering more than one-quarter of its customers. (Robert Jones/CBC)

NB Power may be struggling to convince the Energy and Utilities Board to let it invest in smart meters but the province's municipal utilities — who don't answer to the board — have already put thousands of the devices into service without controversy.

"We have 9,816 units installed currently," said Saint John Energy vice-president Marta Kelly told CBC News Thursday.

"They've been excellent for hard to reach routes." 

The utility began installing smart meters 12 years ago and now more than a quarter of city residents have one, particularly those living on the city's outskirts.

Kelly says residents were informed by letter before meters were installed and complaints have been limited.

"In the unlikely event they want it removed they can have it removed but we have had very little of that."

Installed for several years

The Saint John neighbourhood of Martinon is almost completely serviced by smart meters and has been for several years. (Robert Jones/CBC)

In the neighbourhood of Martinon, in the extreme northwest corner of Saint John, most buildings carry a smart meter and have for several years. 

The units transmit power consumption information back to the utility on their own without having to be visited and read.

Kelly said placements in more remote parts of the city like Martinon helped the utility shave the most off its meter reading expenses. She said if NB Power wins approval to install its own meters, Saint John Energy will complete the entire city.

"We support the rollout of AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure). We think it's a fundamental basis for (other) initiatives we can all do in the future."

Although they operate as electrical monopolies in their communities, New Brunswick's municipal utilities, including Saint John Energy, Edmundston Energy and the Perth-Andover Electric Light Commission, are not required to have their rates or spending plans reviewed and approved by a regulator,

That has freed them up to do what they want when they want.

In Perth-Andover's case it installed smart meters with all but a couple of customers, about 900 in total, in 2010.

Village administrator Dan Dionne says it's been a good investment and he does not envy the prodding NB Power's smart meter plan was submitted to in front of the Energy and Utilities Board. 

"We're a small utility.  We can hire one guy to come in and do our whole system over in a couple of weeks."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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