New meters may raise electricity bills

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Hafslund Nett, the major network supplier of electricity in the Oslo area, has begun the process of replacing all of the roughly 700,000 electricity meters in its region. The new “smart” meters will eliminate the need for customers to send in meter readings, but are also likely to leave them with higher bills.

Hafslund Nett is replacing all its electricity meters with new "smart" meters that will automatically record consumption at all hours of the day and night. PHOTO: Hafslund Nett

Hafslund Nett is replacing all its electricity meters with new “smart” meters that will automatically record consumption at all hours of the day and night. PHOTO: Hafslund Nett

Installation of the new meters, which will automatically send electricity consumption figures directly to Hafslund, is costing at least a billion kroner. That will be passed on to consumers, who also will become subjected to fluctuations in the price of the electricity itself.

That’s because electricity will be charged at various rates throughout the day and night based on demand. For households, rates tend to peak in the mornings and evenings (before and after work or school, for most), meaning that using lots of electricity in the late afternoon and evening can now be more costly than it was before.

“It’s clear we can expect higher electricity bills in the future,” Finn Myrstad of Norway’s consumer council (Forbrukerrådet) told Norwegian Broadcasting on Thursday.

Toril Benum, director of the smart-meter project for Hafslund Nett, confirmed that the bill for what she calls an “upgrade” of the electricity network will be sent on to Hafslund Nett’s customers. She stressed, however, that the market sets the price of the electricity itself. Consumers, she argues, can now adjust their electricity consumption to take advantage of lower rates and avoid high rates.

While it’s unlikely people will get up in the middle of the night to run their washing machines or prepare dinner when rates are low, Benum noted that consumers will be better off charging electric cars, for example, during the night instead of plugging them in as soon as they come home from work.

She wouldn’t directly answer the question of whether bills will rise in general, choosing instead to contend they’ll be “more correct.” That’s because Hafslund and other network providers who also are replacing old electricity meters with new ones “will have exact data” regarding all customers’ consumption.

“This is all part of a modernization of the power network,” Benum said. “Consumers won’t have to read their meters and eventually, new services will be offered to help adjust consumption better.”

Myrstad wasn’t convinced. “Some people really need to use electricity at certain times of the day, and shouldn’t be punished for that,” he told NRK.

For Hafslund’s own explanation of its “smart meter” installation project, and how it will work, click here (external link).

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund