Smart meters, smart idea

Bev Van Ruyven dreams about talking to her fridge and thermostat on a regular basis.

Bev Van Ruyven dreams about talking to her fridge and thermostat on a regular basis.

BC Hydro’s executive vice-president even imagines calling up her appliances while taking a transatlantic flight, to order them to use less power.

It’s the future of smart meters.

And for Yukoners, it’s as foreign as life with the Jetsons.

The territory’s old-school meters read how much power a household uses – and that’s it.

But in cities like Vancouver and Toronto, smart meters offer a window into the intricate electrical world of each household.

Using “a web portal,” customers can track their power consumption down to the second.

So can the utility.

“Communicating by billing is not the best,” said Toronto Hydro Electrical Systems vice-president Ivano Labricciosa, during Yukon Energy’s charette this week.

So, in 2005, the utility started installing smart meters in every Toronto home.

“We did 20,000 a month,” said Labricciosa.

“And it took us a bunch of years.”

By 2010, the job was finished.

It remains the largest install in North America.

Switching Whitehorse would have taken the utility less than a month, he said.

The smart meters allow Toronto’s utility to price power according to demand.

At peak time, when demand is high, power costs more – about nine cents a kilowatt/hour.

During low consumption periods, it costs less – about three cents.

The idea is to prompt customers to do the laundry, or turn on the dishwasher, when power is cheap.

And – in Van Ruyven’s world – customers could even call their fridges and thermostats when prices spike, ordering their appliances to cut back on consumption.

In Whitehorse, Yukon Energy fires up the diesels to meet peak demand.

And we don’t use all our available power at night – water spills over the dam, said climate change expert and Green Party chair John Streicker.

“We as a society could change that,” he said.

“We could put our hot-water tanks on a timer and run our dishwashers at night.

“This way we’d smooth out our energy use and not have to go to diesel.”

The Yukon government is drafting a net metering policy to allow homeowners and businesses producing their own power to sell it back to the grid.

To do this, interested businesses and homeowners would need a new meter.

However, these wouldn’t necessarily be as savvy as smart meters.

“If you look at the cost of changing out a meter, the difference in price between a net meter and a smart meter isn’t so much,” said Streicker.

“So they might as well go all the way, to smart meters.”

Smart meters would do what net meters do, and more, allowing Yukon Energy to raise rates during peak power use and lower rates in lulls.

In BC, smart meters, like net meters, also allow consumers to sell power back to the grid.

“We buy lots from independent power producers,” said Van Ruyven, mentioning wind, biomass and run-of-the-river power projects.

The utility is expecting to get 25 per cent of its supply from independent power producers in the next few years.

It is also planning to cut growing demand by 66 per cent simply by educating its customers.

Last year, BC Hydro outfitted two containers with glass fronts and furnished them.

Then, it paid two guys to live there, side by side on a busy street corner in downtown Vancouver.

One of the guys was energy efficient – the other was an energy slob.

The utility also has flashy ad campaigns, video games for kids and webpages that allow consumers to monitor their power usage around the clock.

The BC government has mandated that 93 per cent of BC Hydro’s power must be clean and renewable.

If Alexander Graham Bell were alive today, he’d be in shock, said Van Ruyven.

He’d see all these people talking on cellphones and ask, “Where are the wires?”

But if Thomas Edison showed up, he wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, she said.

He’d think, “Things are pretty much as I left them.”

“We have to work hard to change that,” said Van Ruyven.

Compared to Toronto, the Yukon is “community-minded,” said Labricciosa.

“And you have an opportunity to take a strong stance and really set an example.”

It might seem like the best option is always the cheapest, he said.

“But you have to look at the price you pay later.”

Outfitting Toronto with smart meters cost Labricciosa’s utility $150 million.

“Where is the business case to do this?” he said.

“I say, ‘Where is the business case for having a computer?’

“At some point you just know you need things as part of society.”

Switching to smart meters is not a question of, “Do I or don’t I,” said Labricciosa.

“It’s a question of when.”

To learn more about the Yukon government’s draft net metering policy go to http://netmetering.gov.yk.ca.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 5, 2021.… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. They formally announced that as of Nov. 20, anyone entering the territory (including Yukoners returning home) would be required to self-isolate with the exception of critical service workers, those exercising treaty rights and those living in B.C. border towns
Vaccinated people won’t have to self-isolate in the Yukon after May 25

Restaurants and bars will also be able to return to full capacity at the end of the month.

An RV pulls into Wolf Creek Campground to enjoy the first weekend of camping season on April 30, 2021. John Tonin/Yukon News
Opening weekend of Yukon campgrounds a ‘definite success’

The territorial campgrounds opened on April 30. Wolf Creek was the busiest park seeing 95 per cent of sites filled.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: rent caps and vaccines

To Sandy Silver and Kate White Once again Kate White and her… Continue reading

Most Read