Hydro bills revamped as smart meters turn on

Sudbury Hydro customers will start to pay different prices for electricity depending on when they use it, as the smart meters installed over the last two years come online.

Under tiered pricing, daytime power use can be 80% costlier than nights or weekends

If you're a Sudbury Hydro customer thinking of cranking up the A/C during a hot day this summer or doing your laundry after lunch, you may want to think twice.

Two years after homeowners started to get "smart" electricity meters installed, the company is rolling out time-of-use pricing that penalizes people who guzzle power during peak usage hours.

There's controversy about whether smart meters, which have been installed across Ontario, actually induce energy conservation. (Canadian Press)

The smart meters record what time you use electricity at and enable billing at different rates that are designed to encourage efficiency in electricity generation and use.

Paula Tarini, supervisor of conservation with Sudbury Hydro, said people should take advantage of the different rates and change their habits.

"Deferring some of the things that you do, such as turning on your dishwasher at 7 o'clock versus five o'clock. Just little things like that. Try to use it more efficiently," Tarini said.

The exact rate tiers depend on the season. For summer, it's most expensive to use electricity between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the hottest hours of the day, when households tend to turn on their air-conditioning. At those times, one kilowatt-hour of energy costs 11.7 cents.

In all seasons, the cheapest hours are on weekdays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and on weekends and holidays, when the price per kWh drops to 6.5 cents.

"People have an opportunity to change their habits and do things at the lower rate," Tarini said. "I can't tell you it's going to save money and I can't tell you it's going to cost you more. It's all up to the individual."

$1.5-billion program

Ontario has spent $1.5 billion, most of it obtained from charges on customers' hydro bills, to install about 4.5 million smart meters across the province. But late last year, Ontario's environment commissioner said there's no evidence the smart meters are having any effect on consumption patterns.

Some Sudbury residents are skeptical of the system, too.

"They're kind of forcing us into a lifestyle change," said downtowner Doug Brown. "Even if you change your whole lifestyle and stay up all night and sleep during the day, the simple fact is we're going to be paying more for power."

Sudbury Hydro said the smart meters were supposed to have already come into effect, but were delayed by provincial issues. The utility's customers can expect to see the changes on their next bill.