B.C. currently imports 10 to 15 per cent of its electricity from outside the province, but if new programs being considered by B.C. Hydro win approval the province should be able to keep up with demand during peak hours.
At the last Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in September, Premier Gordon Campbell announced plans to install smart power meters in every household in the province over the next five years. Campbell repeated that commitment in the recent throne speech, confirming that the program was underway and should be completed in 2012.
As well, B.C. Hydro applied to the B.C. Utilities Commission to bring in a two-step rate structure that would charge customers different rates for power based on consumption.
Gillian Robinson Riddell, a spokesperson for B.C. Hydro, confirmed that the two items are related, and are part of a B.C. Hydro plan to reduce household consumption. There are also discussions to introduce an hourly rate system where people could be charged more for using electricity at peak times.
“B.C. Hydro is encouraging people to think of ways to cut back on energy consumption,” she said. “What we need to have, and what we’ve committed to, is for 50 per cent of our future energy needs to come through conservation. We’re not building new supplies of electricity, we’re not importing or buying, we’re encouraging people to use less electricity. For one thing, it’s the cheapest way to meet those future needs, and second there is room for people to do that.”
According to Robinson Riddell, the average home in B.C. used about 9,300 Kilowatt Hours of electricity per year about 20 years ago. Despite the fact that major appliances and fixtures are more energy efficient, household energy consumption now averages more than 11,000 kWh annually.
“The primary force is the increase in electrical appliances we have in our homes, while homes themselves have gotten larger as well through the 1990s,” she said. “And we have lots of things that we’ve never had before, like multiple cell phones that need to be charged, desktops and laptop computers, digital cable boxes, more than one television.
“Major appliances are much more energy efficient, but we’ve replaced that (efficiency) with other things. All those heated driveways and floors add demand.”
According to Robinson Riddell, the smart meters allow real-time metering of power usage as well as more detailed information on how and when power is used. The current system requires meter readers to visit each household every 60 days, and customers are billed for how much power they use in that time.