A Brocklehurst family — convinced that the only possible explanation for a spike in their electrical bills is a smart meter — is hoping B.C. Hydro can pinpoint a precise cause on Monday.
Lauren and Dustin Jensen say their electrical costs rose by $400 a year after installation last March of a smart meter, part of a provincewide conversion now approaching completion.
The Jensens believe they have eliminated every possible cause, including the fault of the smart meter, but feel the sudden cost surge and the installation are too much of a coincidence to be dismissed.
“We don’t have any explanation,” she said. “I don’t know what to do and I want them to be more accountable.”
In protest, she hasn’t paid the bill for the fall.
“Of course, now they’re threatening to cut off the power, what am I going to do? I just think it’s highway robbery.”
After suggesting a series of explanations over the phone and sending the original smart meter for independent testing, B.C. Hydro offered on Wednesday to send a field services representative to have a closer look at the mystery.
The Jensen’s original smart meter was one of 169 units around the province that have been sent for testing by Measurement Canada, the federal agency responsible for ensuring consumers get fair and accurate measures of the goods and services for which they pay.
When their bills went up, they had the first meter pulled and a new one installed last fall. That didn’t bring down the bill. Furthermore, the testing found no fault with the meter.
“Any customer can ask for that test,” said Greg Alexis, Hydro spokesman.
How many units passed the test? All of them, Alexis said.
The Jensens were unhappy about being charged $100 for the test, but that’s the standard fee unless testing reveals a technical problem.
Still, they were $100 poorer and no closer to solving the mystery. Hydro does provide a troubleshooting list so that customers can pinpoint causes.
“Once it’s gone into the house, there’s no way for us to know how the customer uses the electricity,” Alexis said, explaining the Crown corporation’s perspective.
They hadn’t installed new appliances that could have affected consumption. They hadn’t renovated, another possible factor.
Hydro suggested someone could be stealing electricity, so the Jensens pursued this possibility. They even rose in the middle of the night to see if any extension cords could be found, surreptitiously drawing electricity while they slept. Again, nothing was found.
The family previously had a tenant in their basement, so they figured their bills should have gone down, not up. They also installed new windows with higher thermal values, which should have yielded some savings.
Dag Sharman, Hydro’s community relations manager, said the smart-meter program offers customers the ability to track their usage online, a valuable tool in pinpointing energy consumption.
“Many customers across the province can go online to their account and see their electrical use by their house up to the previous day,” he said. “You really get a sense of electrical use you didn’t have before.”