How smart are we if we continue to agree to pay for smart meters?

In my last column I expressed my opposition to the PUC’s application to recover smart meter costs from us through an increase in our delivery charges. Not surprisingly, Brian Curran, president and CEO of PUC, wasn’t a big fan of my column.

Curran replied in a letter in which he let people know that smart electrical meters were mandated by the provincial government. No one is arguing that.

Just because something gets handed down by the provincial government doesn’t mean that we have to like it or go along with it. Does anyone remember the whole eco-fee fiasco? That got overturned quickly when people realized what a train wreck it was.

Perhaps we’re a little bit slower this time, but now many of us are realizing that time-of-use pricing isn’t about conservation, it’s about maximizing provincial coffers, and we shouldn’t have to pay for the meters for them to do so.

Then Curran says that “smart meters (are) the wave of the future in the electricity sector. They are the basis of the evolution of the smart grid.” If smart grids are anything like smart meters, we best prepare ourselves for our wallets to “smart” because a smart grid sure sounds a lot more expensive. Also, one has to ask if it is really the future. Look at all the dissension in B.C. right now over smart meters.

I truly hope that we get more full information on how smart grids will benefit and cost us before such “progress” continues.

To that point, I’ve asked PUC to show me where the marketing material states that we’d be billed for the smart meters. I went through all the information I had, and readers sent me a bunch as well, and nowhere could I find it say we would be charged for them.

To be fair, the province also seems to have forgotten to tell consumers that we’d be charged for the smart meters when they mandated them. Did they expect the PUC’s of the province to do their dirty work? Regardless, both the province and local utilities forgot to enter into a contract with us, the consumers.

Imagine going to Las Vegas, where you enjoy free drinks in the casino and are given tickets to a show. Then at check out, there is an “entertainment recovery” charge on your bill. Alternatively, and closer to home, what if you went into the LCBO and bought a bottle of wine that had a free mini bottle attached. Later that day you discover that there is a “free sample recovery fee” on your receipt. Isn’t it dancing on the unethical to give somebody something and later sneak them an invoice for it?

According to the Ontario Energy Board, there are 16 applications before it now, and that leaves dozens that haven’t applied. I’m naive enough to hope that at least some of the community utility providers that haven’t asked for rate increases realize that you either tell people about charges they will incur upfront clearly, or you absorb the costs.

A point I will absolutely concede to Curran is that their financial statements, being consolidated, are tough to interpret. The numbers that Curran quote in his letter are not available on the PUC website. I provided an opinion based on the information that was available.


He also mentions that $260,000 of the community relations costs were for conservation programs and “all of these costs were recovered from OPA.” Perhaps PUC can use that money to go toward paying for the smart meters as the devices are supposedly all about “conservation.”

Finally, Curran’s tone gets surprisingly nasty. I say surprisingly because this isn’t personal. I’ve always respected Brian and all PUC employees I’ve met. The City of Sault Ste. Marie is PUC’s sole shareholder, so by extension, we all have a right to raise customer/shareholder concerns and we should expect to be dealt with professionally. (I should mention I did contact/leave a message with PUC staff before my last column, but, although many of us were working Easter Monday, PUC was not.)

I’d like to truly thank all of the people who wrote to me opposing the rate increase, including a large majority who copied PUC, city councillors, and our MPP. I’d particularly like to thank those who also contacted me after Mr. Curran’s reply with words like: “You must be doing your job if they are trying so hard to discredit you, Nadine. Keep up the good work.”

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