Vancouver, BC, Canada --- (METERING.COM) --- July 25, 2013 - FortisBC, which supplies electricity and natural gas to approximately 1.1 million customers in British Columbia, has received approval for its smart metering rollout – provided the company also files an application for an opt-out provision.

In a more than 200-page decision paper the BC Utilities Commission has approved project development costs of $50.898 million (US$49.3 million). Over its 20 year life the project is expected to generate a net benefit of $13.9 million (US$13.5 million) as a result of reductions in operating costs and electricity theft.

FortisBC proposes to replace its fleet of electric meters, comprising approximately 80,000 electromechanical and 35,000 digital meters for residential and commercial customers, plus an additional approximately 15,000 customer meters in the recently acquired Kelowna area, with smart meters.

However, as yet there is no start date for the rollout. In a statement FortisBC said that the Commission’s decision is lengthy and the company has a responsibility to customers to properly review it before making a commitment to moving forward with the project.

The statement also said that if it elects to proceed, FortisBC will work with customers to address concerns they may have, and will provide options for them.

The application for the opt-out must be filed by November 1. Its basis is that there will be customers who are opposed to smart meters, and it will enable the rollout to go ahead without delays and potential additional costs and reduction in benefits.

In its statement FortisBC said it expects to make its decision on the project within the next month.

Customer opposition to smart meters has been an issue that BC Hydro has been grappling with, and last week the provincial minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, announced opt-out options. These include accepting a digital meter with the radio off or retaining an existing analog meter – with costs to the customer in both cases. Approximately 60,000 BC Hydro customers have refused smart meters in a more than 1.8 million meter rollout. Customers have up to December 1 to make their choice.