Smart meters were made mandatory this year for home and small business owners, after assurance by the government the way the new meters calculate energy usage is much better than previous hydro meters and would save them a lot of money. The time-of-use pricing used by the meters promises savings because it offers consumers the choice of using their major energy sucking appliances during off-peak periods when the cost is much cheaper, and a 3-5 per cent savings should be evident if this shift in usage is achieved.
In the winter, weekday off-peak hours are from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., and the on-peak hours are from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., while peaking a second time from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. In the summer, off-peak hours are from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and the peak period only occurs once, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Year round, weekends and statutory holidays are off-peak.
In 2004, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised that, “smart meters, together with more flexible pricing, would allow Ontarians to save money if they run appliances in off-peak hours”.
Not only does simply having a smart meter add a $3 or $4 charge onto the bills just to pay for themselves, according to Toronto Hydro, the customers who have been using the smart meters since last summer are seeing increases in their energy charges, to the tune of an average 3$ per month. Toronto Hydro says only 27 per cent of people with smart meters have seen a decrease, and the average savings is 29 cents. Those who see an increase on average find it much higher: 90 cents.
Out of about 630,000 homes and small buildings that will have the smart meters, 615,000 already have them installed.
Toronto Hydro says you really have to make an effort to conserve energy as well as shift your usage over to off-peak periods to see the savings smart meters have to offer. Turning off the television or lights when not in use, switching to energy saving bulbs as well as unplugging appliances like the coffee machine or toaster when not in use is a start.