French Canadian public utility Hydro-Québec is facing accusations from a consumer group that two-way metering technology is resulting in more customers being disconnected, according to local media reports.
Consumer protection group Union des Consommateurs has expressed concern about the number of disconnections this year and points to smart meters making it easier for the utility to cut electricity.
The consumer group estimates that between January 1 to September 30, 2014, Hydro-Québec cut power to 51,015 homes and businesses, with about 37,000 clients being cut off.
The Union des Consommateurs will file a complaint at Quebec’s Energy Board next month asking Hydro-Québec to cancel those charges, according to a report by CBC.ca.
Disconnection is last resort
Hydro-Québec has hit back however by saying that the number of customers disconnected is the same as in 2012, and most have had their electricity reconnected.
Hydro-Québec spokesman Patrice Lavoie said the colder winter in 2013-14 might have had an impact on clients’ electricity consumption, and consequently their bills were higher.
He also said Hydro-Québec’s new rate structure might play a role.
Mr Lavoie said: “The rate adjustment we had last April 1 might also be a reason why we have had some service interruptions this year, unfortunately.
“It’s not a pleasure for Hydro-Québec to interrupt our service to our clients.”
Lavoie told CBC that the new smart meters do make it easier to disconnect the power, but he said that is not Hydro-Québec’s first option.
“We still want to make a payment arrangement with people. We made more than 200,000 payment arrangements with our clients last year,” Lavoie said, adding that clients receive three notices by mail and reminders by phone once they are in default.
By law, nobody in the province spends the winter without electricity.
Smart meter rollout
In April 2014, Hydro-Québec had installed nearly 1.4 million of 1.7 million meters of phase 1 of its smart water metering project in the greater Montréal area.
More than 80% of the 1.7 million meters making up Phase 1 of the project, which is scheduled to end in June 2014, are already in service for customers in the greater.
The deployment, which was scheduled to end in June 2014, has been broadly accepted by customers, with a refusal rate for smart meters below 0.4 per cent, confirms the state-owned utility for the province of Quebec.