A Nova Scotia Power employee is pictured installing a smart meter.

HALIFAX: Nova Scotia Power (NSP) customers in parts of the region will be receiving new smart meters.

Last week, NSP said it will begin upgrading electrical meters in Cape Breton as part of an investment to modernize the electricity grid and provide customers with faster, more effective service.

According to NSP, upgrades will start in the Port Hawkesbury area, stretching north to Mabou and beyond. Later this year, the company said the southern part of Cape Breton is scheduled to receive smart meters.

Jacqueline Foster, senior communications advisor with NSP, told The Reporter customers receiving new meters have been notified and on the day of the upgrade, a technician will explain the work being performed to the customer.

“All customers are notified in advance of their meter being upgraded,” Foster said. “This happens a few weeks prior to the upgrade and includes receiving information through the mail, with customer bills, and through automated telephone calls. To ensure our customers are informed, we also share information with elected officials, issue press releases to the communities…, public service announcements and regularly post updates to nspower.ca/smartmeters.

Once all the meters in the province have been upgraded and Nova Scotia Power turns on the smart technology – scheduled to take place in 2021 – they are promising access to daily information about energy usage and notifications.

Connecting or disconnecting electricity will be easier and faster with no on-site appointment required, NSP claims, noting that smart meters will notify them when the power goes out, helping the company respond more quickly in the event of an outage.

“Smart meters will put customers in control of their energy use. It’s a big step forward in delivering convenience and control” says Steve Pothier, smart meter project director. “Smart meters are safe, accurate and secure. They’ll also reduce costs in our electricity system, helping to keeping rates stable for customers.”

Smart meters digitally measure how much electricity is used and when it is used, sending this data over a secure wireless network to NSP, which will use the information to create a customer’s bill.

There is no charge and the upgrades are quick and easy, according to NSP, which noted that the entire process typically takes less than 15 minutes to complete with only a momentary loss of power. Safety protocols include wearing cloth masks and gloves, and using disinfectant.

When asked to respond to claims from NSP customers that their power bills increased after smart meters were installed, Foster asked anyone with questions about their bill to contact Customer Care at 1-800-428- 6230.

“There are a number of factors that can impact a customer’s bill such as an increase in energy use, the length of a billing period, or the weather,” she explained. “Smart meters do no impact current rates or bills. The devices will help keep electricity rates stable and provide faster, more effective service. Once this technology is turned on, customers will also be able to monitor their usage every day. All electricity meters, including smart meters, must meet strict requirements related to accuracy.”

Nova Scotia Power began smart meter upgrades in October 2019. Since then, more than 131,000 smart meters have been installed.