BC Hydro has been given another year to complete its wireless smart grid project, as it nears the original deadline with 140,000 smart meters still to be installed.
Energy Minister Rich Coleman announced the extension of the Dec. 31, 2012 deadline imposed by the B.C. Liberal government’s Clean Energy Act. Pushed through the legislature in the spring of 2010, that legislation supports sweeping changes to BC Hydro’s expansion using wind, small hydro and other private power development.
In a ministry statement, Coleman cited shortages of skilled labour, meters and other specialized equipment as well as “customer concerns” for failing to meet the deadline for all 1.87 million meters across the province. BC Hydro has been dogged by political and citizen protests about the cost of the refit and persistent claims of various hazards from the meters.
Installers have also encountered meters made inaccessible by construction of garages, decks and other structures that covered them.
Some homeowners who refused replacement of mechanical meters now worry that they will be on the hook for costs if their old meter equipment fails after they refused the upgrade.
BC Hydro spokesman Greg Alexis said the one-year delay, originally signalled in a November finance ministry update, doesn’t change the utility’s target of the 2014 fiscal year to implement the entire system. Meters are only a small part of a province-wide grid that will automatically report power outages and offer customers a real-time display of their power consumption.
The Clean Energy Act was the culmination of former premier Gordon Campbell’s climate and energy strategy. It exempted the wireless meter project, the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River, and an array of private power proposals from scrutiny by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
NDP energy critic John Horgan has said he supports a review of the wireless grid proposal and other major projects by the utilities commission.