In its new platform, the Progressive Conservative party vows to make smart-metering optional. That’s a valid position, so long as it doesn’t create unnecessary costs to the whole system. What’s not valid is the party’s smearing of the idea. Aren’t conservatives supposed to like the idea of prices linked to supply and demand?
Just as roses are more valuable on Feb. 14 than on Feb. 15, power is more valuable at 5 p.m. than at midnight. Extra demand creates strain on the system, which means it has to use or import power that might not be as clean as its main sources. It also means the whole system has to be big enough to accommodate the biggest possible peak-hour usage -which means building more costly nuclear plants or wind turbines. That’s why it’s in everyone’s interest to moderate power usage. And price incentives make sense. Instead of punishing everyone by charging them the same rate as those who waste electricity in peak hours, smart meters reward people for doing the right thing.
The Tory platform is dishonest: “We will stop forcing families to be showered and ready for school and work before 7 a.m. or compelling seniors to do laundry late into the night.” Nobody’s “forcing” or “compelling” anyone to do anything. Just as the price-conscious can save their shopping for Boxing Day, they can save their laundry for the evening -if they like. Seniors, like everyone else, can do their laundry whenever they please. If they do it after 7 p.m. or on a weekend, they’ll save a few cents per kilowatt hour.
The Liberals bear a lot of the blame for the bad rap smart meters are getting. The initial results suggest that for many users, any savings are offset by other factors pushing up hydro prices. It could be that the prices aren’t set at the right levels, or users haven’t yet changed their habits enough. This program could work, but only if the government makes sure it works properly.
A party that really wanted to serve taxpayers would promise to create a smart-meter system that people will want to use because it actually does what it promises: saves them money.