A Honeymoon Bay man is astounded at his recent hydro bill which saw an increase of $1,400 from this time last year.
The problem centres around the installation of a new smart meter that now allows BC Hydro to view hydro use online.
Leah Fjelstad had his new meter installed two months ago and his latest bill reads over $1,800.
“This time last year I was charged $414 but apparently that was just an estimate,” said Fjelstad. “I’ve just received my bill for the last billing period and it was over $1,800. I went crazy.”
Fjelstad claims he has been charged a similar “estimated” fee for the past nine months, which was the last time a BC Hydro representative visited his home to read the old meter.
“I haven’t had somebody come out and read my meter since last March. They’re now collecting for the past nine months that I was charged their estimates so this $1,800 is the start of me catching up.”
BC Hydro’s Ted Olynyk confirmed the estimates is something Hydro has been doing for a while now.
“They’re based on traditional consumption per meter. We normally read one month and then estimate the next,” said Olynyk who says the issue in this case is “not a smart meter issue, it’s a billing issue.”
“It’s always challenging to talk about customer accounts,” he said. “Sometimes we get enquiries because we’ve overestimated, sometimes we underestimate. More often than not the concern would be that we’ve overestimated then people get a refund. Very rarely do we underestimate.
“He (Fjelstad) had a big bill so we will contact the customer to arrange a payment method in installments. Anybody who is having trouble making their bill should contact and talk to us as we want to keep the power on.”
Fjelstad, with 20 years of electrical engineering behind him, duly called up BC Hydro in order to get an explanation and claims he was given “four different stories” with regards to the excessive bill.
He was initially told the new meter was “not transmitting.”
“With this new smart meter, they can now read it online. They (eventually) told me, after I got through to somebody else, what my demand was and what I am burning now. I sense that if I don’t re-pay them they’ll cut me off, although they’ll let me re-pay it over an extended period.”
Fjelstad also claims BC Hydro couldn’t explain the reasoning or concept behind their estimation prices.
“I figured I used about 5,000 kW so would owe them about $500 as it was a little cold (during the last billing period). I don’t know if I’ll have to pay $1,800 every month (going forward).”
Fjelstad had the smart meter installed because BC Hydro charges users $35 each month for a representative to read the old-style meter — $70 every billing period.
Olynyk sees the smart meter as a step forward.
“The new meters give the exact reading and people can sign up for a MyHydro account online and sign-in to see their hour-by-hour consumption from the day before,” he said. “We take a picture of every old meter and the new one starts at zero.”