Opting out of the City of Penticton’s automatic meter reading program is not as easy as simply hanging on to your old electrical or water meter.
That’s because meters need to be replaced, regardless of what type of meter they are being replaced with, according to Mitch Moroziuk, director of operations for the City of Penticton.
“All the old electro-mechanical meters are simply getting old and they are wearing out,” said Moroziuk.
But should a homeowner choose to opt out of having an automatic meter reading (AMR) unit, which is the preference of the city electric utility, there is a cost attached.
AMR meters allow meter readings to be taken by staff driving by with a receiver in the vehicle and considerably reduce the costs associated with collecting usage data. Concerns have been raised, however, about the safety of the meters, which transmit their data in microsecond bursts at regular intervals, for a total of about two seconds per day.
“They have to be changed to something and the type of meter a person would get if they opted out of an AMR meter is not something we stock,” said Moroziuk. “We don’t have them, so we have to go buy them, that is why there is a charge for that. And then of course, there is a reading charge.”
In terms of an electricity meter, that means a $105 charge for a new electro-mechanical meter, and an $11 monthly fee for the manual readings. Those numbers, and even the whole opt-out program, were developed after consultation with the public, city staff and council.
“We went through the whole process with the public at the forums and I think we came up with a solution that benefitted the community, and benefitted the city in that if someone really had strong views on AMR, there was a mechanism for them to opt out of it,” said Moroziuk, explaining the reasoning behind the charge for a non-AMR meter.
“Again, that is not a meter we are getting, not a meter we are stocking. We have also bought all the AMR meters, so now we have an AMR meter in our warehouse that we don’t need. They are sealed meters, with our logo on them, so it is not like we can return them,” he said. “We also had to look at the rest of the customers and they shouldn’t be absorbing the cost of someone wanting to opt out of AMR. So those costs should be borne by the person that is making that choice.”
Under federal regulations, the city’s electric utility is required to test the existing meters on a set basis, which determines when the utility needs to replace them. Moroziuk said the city is running out of time on the existing meters.
“The electro-mechanical meters are old and need to be replaced,” said Moroziuk, adding that the older a meter gets, the greater the frequency of testing that is required.