“Smart meters will save you money”

The Ontario Ministry of Energy introduced ‘smart meters’ and ‘time of use’ pricing a number of years ago. They promised that “smart meters will save you money”. If you Google that promise, you get over 13,800,000 hits. Toronto Hydro did a test run of smart meters in the late 1990s showing that you would be hard pressed to save any money. McGuinty, the Liberal Premier of Ontario, announced smart meters as his main conservation plan. However, smart meters have not proven to be a very good conservation tool and they do not get people to use less power. The theory behind them is to simply shift power use down from the peaks. Most people do not have that much discretion as to when they use power. Many middle and low income people do not have extra funds to insulate their apartments or to buy energy efficient refrigerators, stoves and other appliances. Many low income apartments are electrically heated and very poorly insulated.

Smart meters have failed to conserve on electricity and to shift power use. Recent estimates are that the current provincial government spent over $2 billion on smart meters. These funds would have been far better spent on real conservation measures. Conserving energy is ten times cheaper than creating new supply. The same meters could have been kept and more aggressive conservation legislation could have been introduced. One such effective measure is the California 20/20 plan. That is, if you reduce your electricity use by 20% the hydro system will cut your bill by another 20% for a total savings of 40%. Measures like this, along with better construction and insulation standards, more efficient refrigerators and appliances and fluorescent bulbs would result in a net reduction in the use of power.  It would be a very good investment to help low income people buy these conservation measures, if conservation was number one. Unfortunately, when energy belongs to the private sector, profits are number one.

The reality is that hydro rates have soared many times above the rate of inflation and have more than doubled peoples’ bills. ‘Time of use’ pricing has created enormous room for profits to be funneled by smart meters into the electricity market.

– Paul Kahnert

The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) on Smart Meters
Ontario Government on Smart Meters