I am writing in response to the recent article in the August 17 edition of The Reporter “Customers opt-out of smart meter program.” I would appreciate the opportunity to provide some information in regard to few comments made by Elizabeth Beaton.
First let me start by saying customer feedback is extremely important to us. We take it very seriously and encourage customers to contact us directly at any time.
In the recent article Ms. Beaton suggested there was no notification about the smart meter upgrades. Customers have been receiving smart meter information with their bills since before the upgrades began in October 2019. If a customer is signed up for e-billing, bills are sent to the e-mail address on file, otherwise they are sent to the mailing address on file. Mailed notices are sent to customers up to four weeks before smart meter upgrades start in a community. We can confirm that mailed notices were sent to customers around the Antigonish area the week of June 15. Customers in this area would have also received an automated phone call, to the primary number on file, one or two weeks before their upgrade.
Ms. Beaton also raised concerns about NS Power not properly informing customers they can opt-out and suggested the acknowledgement form is trying to discourage people from choosing that option. All of our material encourages customers to visit our Web site at: nspower.ca/smartmeters or to call 1-800-428-6230 to speak with one of our trained smart meter customer care agents. Our focus is on ensuring customers get fact-based information about smart meters, including what it means to opt out.
If after reviewing this information, a customer still wishes to opt out, they can easily do so by submitting the opt out form electronically at: nspower.ca/smartmeters or by contacting our Customer Care Centre for a mailed copy. The opt out form only takes a few minutes to complete and requires information such as customer name, address, contact number/e-mail to verify the account holder and to ensure the opt out request is processed. It is possible some may find the requirements to opt out as being a bit of a must-do list, but this is simply an effort to ensure we are dealing with the right person and account to reduce the potential for mistakes.
The article also noted Ms. Beaton’s concerns about high bills being directly linked to smart meters. Smart meters do not impact your power consumption. If a customer is concerned about their bill we ask that they call us so we can take a look at their account. Ontario’s roll-out of smart meters was different then ours, as they introduced mandatory time-of-day rates at the same time as smart meters. We have not changed or introduced new rates with our smart meter upgrades and are doing smart meter upgrades as a meter change only at this time. We did submit a filing to our regulator in June to start a consultation process with customer representatives and other key stakeholders to help design a program for time varying rates. This is intended to provide customers with information and the opportunity to manage their consumption differently than they do today, if and when implemented. Any time of day tariff that is approved would be voluntary – a customer’s choice whether to take part. For those interested it would be about choosing when they use electricity to take advantage of lower rates during off peak periods.
Ms Beaton also raised concerns about data from smart meters being stored in a central location. This is not true. Smart Meter technology has been around for years and has evolved over time. Seventy per cent of homes and businesses across the country already use this technology. We have taken our time, learned from other jurisdictions to make sure we get it right for our customers. The smart meters we use meet or exceed all industry standards and regulations, including those set by Health Canada and the Measurement Canada. They go through rigorous testing and are safe, accurate and secure.
We also wanted to provide some clarity around comments about the fee associated with opting out of the smart meter upgrade program. Electricity meters are currently read in person by NS Power employees. With smart meters, we will be able to read meters remotely to generate customer bills, eliminating the need for in person readings. There is no charge to upgrade to a smart meter. Customers who decide to opt out from the smart meter upgrade will be selecting a non-standard meter service and will be required to pay a monthly fee approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for providing that service. This fee ensures costs associated with continuing to use a non-standard meter service, including in person meter readings, is not passed onto other customers who are using smart meters.
We understand customers may have questions about our smart meter program and we encourage them to visit our Web site at: www.nspower.ca/smartmeters or call our customer care team at 1-800-428-6230. We would welcome the opportunity to listen and have a conversation.
We are excited to be able to offer Nova Scotians the same benefits from smart meter technology that many Canadians are already enjoying.
Director, Smart Meter Project
Nova Scotia Power