High energy bills shock Canadians as Smart Meters roll out; Ontario newspaper investigates thousands of complaints

From Ontario, Canada:
Sudbury electricity bill skyrockets, CBC News Sudbury – June 16, 2014:

A Sudbury man is worried his whopping electricity bill could make it impossible to sell his property.

When Pierre Bonin bought his Sudbury area cottage five years ago, he knew hydro bills for the property were on the high side — in the range of $800 per quarter.

But he never expected what came in the mail recently.

The first shock was a bill for nearly $4,000.

“I lost my mind,” Bonin recalled. “I said, ‘there has to be a mistake’.”

That bill was followed by another for about $2,000.”

Bonin complained to Hydro One, but the only remedy offered so far has been a payment plan.

“I’m at a loss. I’m literally at a loss,” he said.

Hydro One has been under fire in recent months for problems with smart metres and billing.

…Since smart metres were installed, Hydro One has been dealing with billing problems and upset customers. The Ontario Ombudsman is investigating nearly 8,000 complaints about Hydro One bills and is expected to provide an update in the coming weeks.
Posted on http://emrabc.ca/?p=4626

From Saskatchewan, Canada:
Some SaskPower bills double after smart meter installation, Prince Albert. Right Now! — June 18, 2014

Before her new smart meter was installed, Chelsey Lemke was paying about $75 for power every month for her 1,100 square foot bungalow in Regina. Then in the summer of 2013, her old power meter was removed and a new smart meter was installed. Her first bill after that was more than $1,000.

“Since then, I’ve seen nothing (on my power bill) under $180 a month, and some months it’s $300, some months it’s $280. It’s double what we were paying before,” said Lemke…

Approximately 80,000 smart meters have already been installed; the full 500,000 will be installed by the end of 2016.

Some of the 80,000 customers already upgraded are getting shocking bills, like Lemke following the installation. Lemke said she called SaskPower’s customer service line after getting her first inflated bill but didn’t get much help.

“They have nothing to say about it,” Lemke went on to paraphrase, “this is exactly what you’re using and that’s the end of the story, if you want power this is what you’re paying for it.”…

Lemke’s family has actually been cutting back on their power use since then; she said it hasn’t really helped.

“After I got that bill for a thousand dollars, we started unplugging everything that we weren’t using. We did a bunch of research online about phantom power and ghost power.”

Lemke called the situation ridiculous and wants a better explanation from SaskPower.

“I don’t think it’s a fair enough explanation to just say ‘well that’s what it is.’ There’s something wrong, there’s something amiss, there’s something that’s counting faster than it should be, or something’s happening because there’s no way that I’ve gone from using 500 kilowatts to 1,000 or whatever they’re saying it is.”…

Lemke isn’t alone; Ashley Haus ran into the same situation. The smart meter on her home was installed three months ago. Since then, her bills have also doubled.

“Our first bill was over $300 … and then each month since, it’s been consistently over $100 – at least $120 each month,” Haus said.

Haus explained that before the new meter the bill had been closer to $50, and like Lemke, she says her household hasn’t changed their power usage.
Posted on http://emrabc.ca/?p=4624

Other examples

From Johannesburg, South Africa:
Joburg’s not-so-smart meters, May 31, 2014

When the meters were installed in Kensington last year, residents believed their bills would no longer be based on inflated estimates and they wouldn’t have to worry about having strangers on their property to read the meters.

Residents now say that instead of reduced bills, many have seen steep increases and a local councillor has labelled the smart meters “a waste of money”…

Ralf Meysel said: “My electricity bill has doubled since they installed the smart meter.”

Another resident Amelia Theron said she was not sure if her meter was read by the council because no one did physical readings. She had also received a “very high” electricity bill this month. http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/joburg-s-not-so-smart-meters-1.1696790

From Bakersfield, California:
Who is benefiting from PG&E’s SmartMeters? California Sen. Dean Florez, October 03 2009

Welcome to the world of PG&E SmartMeters. Wonder why the people of Kern County are angry and want answers? Most have told my office they have lowered their power usage and yet they’ve seen double- and triple-sized energy bills since the installation of SmartMeters.

Laughter, jeers: Frustrated PG&E customers pack SmartMeter hearing, October 6, 2009

Emotions ran high at a public hearing on Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s SmartMeter program. Many customers told of astronomical hikes in energy bills after the utility company installed the new devices. But, PG&E defended its program, saying the meters are not to blame.

June Hahn received her Pacific Gas and Electric Co. bill three months after the company installed a SmartMeter in her home.

“My bill was $2,281, and we were gone three weeks,” said Hahn, who said she’s continued to see a 400 percent increase in her energy bill ever since.

Marisa Banks told a similar story. Her mother went on vacation in July, but, she said, “In that month her bill was $873.”

Other PG&E customers told of their frustrating experiences in trying to get answers from the utility company.

…”The most important thing to us from our customers is that they trust us,” said Felicia Lokey of PG&E before her comments were drowned out by a chorus of boos and jeers from a skeptical public.

The giant monopoly was on the defensive, defending its SmartMeter program.

“We have found no relationship between the implementation of the SmartMeter and the increases in customer bills,” said Bill Devereaux, PG&E’s senior director for the SmartMeter program. (see [i]]

That comment, as well, was greeted by a round of boos and disbelief from a standing-room only crowd.
http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/63581287.html http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/63581287.html?tab=video  TV News Video (3 minutes)

Bakersfield’s SmartMeter trouble worries industry, Feb 27 2010

“This is a serious threat. It cannot be overstated,” said Ahmad Faruqui, an economist and consultant on energy pricing and technology issues…

Faruqui, who occasionally does consulting work for PG&E, was at a London conference in October when the Bakersfield situation was brought up. It came up again shortly afterward at a meeting he attended in Cairo. Since then he has received e-mails from Australia and Canada asking what happened here.

“It has been coming up at every meeting and conference I’ve gone to in the last several weeks,” Faruqui said last week. “Nobody is convinced that they know what’s happening, and there is this apprehension now that it was the meters that was the problem.”

Travis Miller, a senior analyst who watches utilities for Chicago-based Morningstar, said the industry needs an explanation as to what caused the uproar in Bakersfield.

“There are questions about whether it was a one-off problem or whether it’s something that was systemic across the whole smart meter industry,” he said. http://www.bakersfield.com/news/business/economy/x1305354119/Bakersfields-SmartMeter-trouble-worries-industry

After speaking to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors in California about Smart Meters In January 2011, a police officer in the room told me his energy bill tripled after Smart Meters were installed.

From Florida:
Customers look for answers after OUC bills increase, June 10, 2014

Dozens of Orange County residents are looking for answers after their Orlando Utilities Commission bill spiked.

Some people who live in the Conway area said their bills increased as much as $50 to $100. They’re now questioning the new digital meters that were installed by OUC.

“I just looked at it and said, ‘Wow’,” resident Mary Tiffany said.

Records show Tiffany pays about $100 per month in the spring, but last month she said she paid almost $50 more.

“Because we had such a cool, unseasonal month I was thinking I was going to get a lower bill, but then I got this, a really high bill,” Tiffany said.

So she took to social media to see if anyone else was experiencing the same with their bill. More than 200 people responded to Tiffany and they all had one thing in common: digital smart meters recently installed.

“We all have questions. We have not gotten those answers,” Tiffany said.

And it’s also smart water meters

Skyrocketing water bills mystify, anger residents; Water wars: Bills rise to the thousands March 2, 2011

    • Atlanta woman reacts to her $3,000 water bill: I’m “sinking in a hole of water”
    • City water officials received more than 22,000 calls in January
    • Many problems arise after installation of automated water meters
    • Similar water bill spikes reported in Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Florida http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/03/01/water.bills.war/index.html

From Monterey County, California,

Among the dozens of complaints from Monterey Peninsula residents about sudden, sky-high California American Water bills, Gervais Davis’ tale may have topped them all.

Last week, the 81-year-old retired Monterey attorney received a $24,028.86 bill that reflected 228,813 gallons of usage — enough to fill a medium-sized water tower tank — over a two-month period from mid-December to mid-February. http://www.montereyherald.com/news/ci_25309925/monterey-man-gets-24k-water-bill-whopper

For other stories on high water bills in Monterey County, California: http://www.montereyherald.com/calambills https://smartmeterharm.org/2014/03/10/24000-water-bill/

What do the utility companies say?

Ontario, Canada:

Hydro One claims the installation of smart metres coincided with the implementation of time-of-use pricing, which has increased some people’s bills. The utility points to the exceptionally cold winter as a factor as well.

Saskatchewan, Canada:

When asked about the problem, SaskPower president and CEO Robert Watson said the provider hadn’t heard much at all from customers.

“We’ve had very few complaints about the installation of the smart meters, and we’ve had very few complaints about any accuracy with billing,” Watson said.

Watson insists the smart meters are accurate.

“It is not the meters. The meters, we’re finding very reliable and very accurate,” he continued. Watson explained the smart meters have been verified, independently verified, and audited.


“There is nothing wrong with these meters, they are probably more accurate than what we have before,” OUC spokesperson Tim Trudell said.

OUC said the weather is part of the problem. This year in May it was 2-3 degrees warmer so customers paid more to use air conditioning, according to the company.


Bakersfield —
“We have found no relationship between the implementation of the SmartMeter and the increases in customer bills,” said Bill Devereaux, PG&E’s senior director for the SmartMeter program…

PG&E contends energy bills are high because of “an extremely hot summer” and two rate increases, one in October of last year and another in March.

Palo Alto —
PG&E told them they were using more energy than they thought. “When we would communicate with PG&E, they had no real reason to explain why it was so high,” said [Andreina] Parisi-Amon. – http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=7424533

Monterey County —
Cal Am spokeswoman Catherine Stedman said company officials realized the Monterey district needed someone specifically dedicated to dealing with high bills, especially because unintended usage such as leaks could drive the bills as high as several thousands of dollars due to the district’s steeply tiered rate design.

“I think we realize high bills due to the rate design and leaks are very burdensome on customers,” Stedman said. “The steeply tiered rates are there to encourage conservation, and they’ve been very effective. But we need to learn how to deal with the rate design. Now we have a person in Monterey focused just on the high bills situation.

…However, both Lopez and Stedman told The Herald that the company still believes its meters are accurate, and that even a stratospheric reading like Davis’ can be explained.

South Africa:

But City Power insists the 34 000 they have installed are working just fine…

Excuses and no action

“It’s new rates. it’s the weather. It’s a leak. You’re using too much energy. You’re using too much water.”

Something is wrong.

[i] http://www.mercurynews.com/pge/ci_20481577/pge-employee-who-spied-activists-support-management-cpuc

PG&E employee who spied on activists had support of management, a CPUC probe finds

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