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The implementation of smart meters may cost an additional $3.8 million, for a variety of reasons including the exchange rate and staff wages during the pilot phase of the program.
The audit committee was presented with documentation last Monday indicating the $15-million program for the gas, water and electric smart meters will require an additional capital budget amendment.
The request will go before city council Monday.
Mitigating factors related to the $3.8 million include staff wages during the pilot program, additional fibre optic infrastructure required, the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canada, and consulting services in vendor contract negotiations.
Gerry Labas, chief operating officer of the energy division, declined to provide a breakdown of those expenses in determining the total.
While documents for the audit committee called the $3.8 million an electrical division expense, Labas says, in fact it applies to each utility: gas, water and electricity.
“Since electric is leading this project it is responsible for bringing forward items for council on behalf of all three utilities,” said Labas in an email. “That said, the wording is a carryover from the second quarter management report (March) and we are currently checking to see if a budget amendment is even required.”
Audit committee chair Coun. Bill Cocks says he was unable to attend Monday’s meeting and therefore was not aware of the Capital Summary for the Electric Utility.
Coun. Jamie McIntosh, who serves on the committee, says some of the additional cost was moving gas meters from inside older homes to outside.
McIntosh says a full breakdown of the costs will be revealed to council Monday.
In 2012 the cost of introducing smart meters was estimated to be between $18 million and $20 million.
When council unanimously approved the process in April 2013, automated meters were expected to lower costs by 13.5 per cent or $16.05 per year for each of the nearly 80,000 meters for gas, electricity and water.
The expected savings over the 20-year lifespan of the smart meters was estimated to be $25.4 million.
The savings are expected to add up with more accurate readings in addition to cutting the cost of staff currently reading meters. Leakage is also expected to be more easily identified as well as being able to more easily disconnect and/or handle changeovers when a customer moves to a new address.
When the city introduced smart meters, there were 12 meter readers, a mix of full-time and part-time, said Wilbur McLean, spokesperson for the utility department. There are now 7.5 meter reader positions. There have been no layoffs. The reduction in staffing levels has come through meter readers successfully applying for positions in other areas of the city, and through attrition. Any savings in administration costs will be used for improvements to the system.