by Lisa Schick – Prince Albert. Right Now!

June 18, 2014:  http://panow.com/node/457184

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.

The smart meter is supposed to make everything easier for the customers and provider SaskPower. However, some customers have been left feeling frustrated and paying significantly higher bills just like Lemke has.

 

Old power and gas meters are being replaced by smart meters across most of Saskatchewan with the exception of Saskatoon because it’s not served by SaskPower. The digital meters will eventually send information directly to SaskPower and SaskEnergy, eliminating the need for manual meter reading and estimated billing.

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 maintains her family wasn’t consuming more power and didn’t add new electronics to their home.

“I don’t know what’s happening that all of a sudden your power can double when you’re using the exact same amount in the exact same house.”

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.”

According to SaskPower, the average household in Saskatchewan uses about 725 kilowatt hours a month.

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.

“I was trying to think back to see if we were using more power here or there but I couldn’t think of any type of area where we were using more power.”

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.

“So if somebody has significant increases in usage, there’s either something going wrong or they’re significantly using more power.”

At least one of the customers said they were told by SaskPower’s customer service representatives that the new meters are just more accurate than the older meters, so that’s why there’s a difference. But, according to Watson, there is no difference in the accuracy of the old meters and the new meters.

Watson did say that any customers who are finding problems on their bill should call SaskPower and the company will respond immediately.

“If somebody’s having an issue with their billing then please call us because we will look at it and verify it.”

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