July 09, 2010 Features & Images » Feature Story

Smart Meters, smart grid 

Technology to conserve energy is coming to B.C.


Part I - Is B.C. Ready for Smart Meters?

B.C. Hydro is preparing to roll out smart meters in every home. The tech industry is ready to jump on board, but are government and citizens prepared?

By Colleen Kimmett

19 May 2010



The Olympics were a key moment for David Helliwell and his start-up company, Pulse Energy . Eight venues, outfitted with Pulse energy monitoring technology, allowed visitors to view online how much energy was being used at those sites at any given time. It marked the first time that any Olympic site collected and reported energy consumption data, and it attracted a considerable amount of media attention as part of Vancouver's "Greenest Games" billing.

The high-profile project led to more lucrative deals for Pulse - Helliwell says the London 2012 Olympic organizing committee is now interested in tracking energy use at its venues - and also pushed smart meters into the public sphere.

The potential for business development around smart meter deployment is huge, says Helliwell and other industry experts. But as utilities roll out these programs around the world, they are being met with public opposition and concerns about privacy, reliability and cost.

Smart meters are coming to B.C. - but are we ready for them? And what can we learn from those jurisdictions that are ahead of the curve?


'We need to change our behaviour': Campbell

Smart meters are where consumers plug into the smart grid of the future . Smart meters relay real-time energy use data to utilities and customers, and can also communicate with home appliances, opening up opportunities for tighter demand-side management and increased conservation - especially during times of peak demand, when electricity is most expensive.

In 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell told delegates at the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities that within five years 1.7 million homes and businesses in B.C. would have a smart meter.

"We need to change our behaviour and when we do, we will all save money," Campbell said.

But the implementation never happened and smart meters fell off the public radar - until the Olympics and, not long after, the GLOBE conference on business and the environment. There B.C. Hydro's Bev Van Ruyven (now its executive vice-president) reiterated the province's commitment to smart grid technology and announced that Hydro would "substantially complete" its smart metering program by 2012.

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