Centre Wellington Hydro has nearly completed deployment of over 6,000 smart meters to its customers.
Installation of the new meters began in late May. The Ontario government has set a goal of having a smart meter in every home and business across the province by 2010.
Those meters record not only the amount of electricity consumed, but also when it is used. That will enable a Time of Use pricing structure. Unlike the current system, in which customers pay a fixed rate, the Time of Use pricing has three different rates for electricity consumed during off-peak, mid-peak, or on-peak periods of the day. Weekends and holidays are always off-peak.
Centre Wellington Hydro General Manager Doug Sherwood said the utility plans to phase in Time of Use pricing in early 2011. Customers will be notified well in advance.
Time of Use pricing more accurately reflects the actual real-time market cost of electricity, which fluctuates widely throughout the day. Electricity demand peaks in the mid to late afternoon, triggering a corresponding increase in the market price.
During the hot summer months, air conditioner use pushes electricity demand to its highest levels of the year. Ontario must often rely on more expensive and polluting forms of power generation to meet daily peaks. On the hottest days, electricity must be purchased at a premium from power plants that, in some cases, operate only a handful of days a year.
Sherwood said a key objective of the smart metering initiative is to reduce peak demand by encouraging consumers to rethink their consumption habits.
Smart meters and Time of Use pricing will also enable customers to take steps to manage their electricity costs. In the near future, customers will be able to monitor their consumption online or through in-home displays. For a list of cost reduction strategies visit www.smartmetersontario.ca.