Questions and Answers about Smart Meters
What is the difference between smart meters and the meters currently in use in New Brunswick?
Currently, 70 percent of NB Power residential and small business customers have digital meters that emit wireless signals. They are read monthly using hand-held devices or devices installed in vehicles that collect the meter readings as our meter readers drive by.
Smart meters collect the same kind of information as the current meters, namely the amount of electricity that is being used at that location. Instead of that information being collected monthly, however, it is sent to the utility at more frequent intervals every day over a secure wireless network. Utilities also can send signals to the meter to test voltage and power quality—similar to the way your cable television company can check to see if your service is connected.
How do I know if I have a smart meter?
Over 73% of the meters NB Power use today are part of an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system that uses digital meters to communicate using radio frequency. Your electricity usage is recorded and transmitted wirelessly once a month to collection devices installed in drive-by vehicles or held by meter readers.
Smart meters look similar to AMR meters; however, they have a different coloured faceplate (see images below) and do not require a meter reader to walk or drive by to collect the meter readings. The readings are sent remotely to NB Power over a secure network.
Will I have to pay for a new meter?
No, there is no surcharge for the new meter or its installation.
How will you ensure the accuracy of the meters?
Smart meters used by Canadian utilities must be certified by Measurement Canada, just like the meters in use today. They must undergo the same rigorous testing to ensure compliance with Measurement Canada’s high standard of accuracy.
Will installing a smart meter make my bill go up?
No. It’s your energy usage, not the meter, that determines your bill. Sometimes, as they age, meters slow down and under-register energy consumption. That’s one reason why Measurement Canada requires meters to be tested every six years. If this is the case, NB Power will not back-bill you for the time the traditional meter was under-registering and causing you to be billed for less electricity than you actually consumed. Future bills based on new meter data will accurately reflect your energy use.
Why does NB Power want to make these investments now?
Installation of smart meters is essential to a smarter grid. The way energy is produced, delivered and used is changing, and we are changing too – starting with the grid. Investing in cleaner, smarter technologies, rather than in more generating plants, will provide the flexibility needed to address a changing energy future. We must be ready to balance electricity supply and demand while maintaining stability of the grid.
By building smart technologies into the grid we can support greater customer participation in renewables while also improving reliability and efficiency. A smarter grid will provide better visibility into the health of the power grid, enabling us to address some issues before they lead to outages.
We will also have more insight into how and when energy is being consumed and use that information to operate more efficiently and provide better service, new energy-saving products and potentially more flexible rate plans.
What are renewables and how can smart technologies support greater participation?
Renewable energy means the resource can be used over and over again (such as wind, solar, and water). Renewable energy sources are an important part of our overall commitment to customers, the environment and our neighbours in communities across the province. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are what we call “variable”—meaning they’re constantly changing. That makes them challenging to manage when they’re connected to the power grid. By building smart technologies into the grid, NB Power can support greater customer participation in renewables while also improving reliability and efficiency.
What are time-varying rates?
Time-varying rates are rates that change based on factors such as the time of day and demand. There are many different ways to set and implement time-varying rates. These pricing structures are meant to encourage customers to shift their electricity usage to times when electricity is cheaper in order to lower their electricity costs. They can also help the electric company reduce peak demand and its carbon footprint.
NB Power’s plan for installing smart meters doesn’t automatically include a new rate structure. We would share any plans for time-varying rates with our customers for their input prior to submitting a proposal to the Energy and Utilities Board.
How will smart meters reduce our carbon footprint?
Smart meters can significantly benefit the environment by reducing our consumption of fossil fuel resources, thereby reducing emission of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
- Remote meter reads and service connections and reconnections will mean fewer site visits, which will mean fewer trucks on the road.
- Studies suggest that given the ability to monitor their energy use more frequently in greater detail, customers may begin turning off unneeded appliances, change to more efficient lighting, adjust thermostats and make other energy-saving changes. If customers are conserving energy, less power may need to be produced.
- A smarter grid will create a platform that will promote the development and deployment of technologies for increasing distributed generation and energy storage capacity, such as wind and solar generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Source: Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative
What has NB Power done to ensure safety from cyber-attacks and unauthorized disruption of service?
NB Power has made it a top priority to protect its power networks and customer data from all forms of intrusion – including cyber attacks. We are building security safeguards into the design and implementation of our smart grid and smart meter system. Our comprehensive, defense-in-depth approach ensures that we have top security measures at every level.
Are smart meters CSA approved?
Electricity meters are governed by the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act (EGIA) and Regulations. The law specifies that Measurement Canada, not the CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association), is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of electricity meters in Canada. In addition, the smart meters selected by NB Power are certified for safety by UL (note that the company no longer calls itself “Underwriters Laboratories”).
Electricity and Gas Inspection Act:
“Measurement Canada (MC), an agency of Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada, is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of measurement-based trade transactions in Canada, thereby protecting the marketplace interests of businesses and consumers alike. Safeguarding the fairness and competitiveness of the Canadian marketplace depends on the effective administration and enforcement of the Weights and Measures Act (WMA) and Regulations, and the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act (EGIA) and Regulations.”
UL (note that the company no longer calls itself “Underwriters Laboratories”):
I am interested in learning more about the smart meters NB Power is using for the upgrade. Where can I find information from the supplier?
For the meter upgrade, NB Power will use meters supplied by Itron. For more information on how these meters benefit customers, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, you can visit Itron’s Consumer Resource Center.