Billing Adjustments and Submitting Your Meter Readings
Residential consumers often complain that their bills are higher than what they consume. Several reasons for this include unattended appliances left running, extreme temperatures leading to more power or gas consumption, or incorrect meter readings.
A faulty or incorrect meter reading is usually an unclear issue for many energy consumers and often leads to higher bills and uninvited financial concerns for the customers.
What causes inaccurate meter readings and how different wire service providers address this issue is often not clear in Alberta. This article will throw some light on this concern, identify common issues related to meter readings, and what to do about them.
Who reads the meter?
Regardless of which energy retailer you choose, your meter is read by the wire service provider in the region, also known as the WSP or the distribution company. To know more about the distribution company at your location, here’s the complete guide to different WSPs or distribution companies.
Different distribution companies visit the site and read the meters at different intervals. Broadly, the meters are read monthly or every second month or at such other intervals that are reasonable and practicable under existing circumstances, according to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). The service providers are responsible for ensuring the maintenance and accuracy of these meters.
“Why was I estimated?” The main reasons why you’re seeing adjustments on your bills
When a meter reading is not available for a billing period, distributors are allowed to estimate consumption during that period, considering your historical consumption and seasonality. This can occur when the meter reader is unable to access your meter, or the meter has failed to provide the reading to your energy provider due to technical error or some external factors beyond control. These factors could range from locked gates to the premise, threatening dogs, covered or blocked meters, to dangerous weather conditions, making it impossible for meter readers to get the actual consumption numbers.
Although a common practice, estimated readings can be a headache for consumers, especially when the bills get overestimated.
That’s why some utility providers mention the estimate in the bill so customers know whether the bill was calculated based on an actual reading or an estimated reading.
According to Newfoundland Power, a Fortis Company, estimates are calculated by taking your consumption from your last billing period (provided it was not estimated) and adjusting it based on historical temperatures and energy usage patterns for that time of the year.
What can I do to avoid estimates, or have more accurate energy bills?
In order to avoid such situations, customers have multiple options to explore. If you feel like the usage shown in your bills don’t represent the actual amount of electricity or gas consumed, the best way to start could be to check in-house numbers before moving ahead with other options.
Please check below for a list of some things you can do to avoid energy bills estimates and start receiving more accurate monthly statements:
- Double-checking in-house numbers will let you know if any appliance is left running or unattended or you have added a new appliance. Extreme temperatures could also lead to increase in energy usage for a month, a reason that can often go unnoticed.
- If double-checking the in-house numbers give you the right number, you could contact your utility service department to investigate the source of concern. They are able to test the meter. However, be aware if it is determined the meter is functioning as it should, you may be subject to a charge for the meter test. If you are not satisfied with the response from the distributor, they will provide you with further options to have the meter tested.
- Submitting meter readings online or requesting a smart meter (please see below for a tutorial.)
- File a complaint with Measurement Canada for getting the meter tested. Across Canada, electricity and gas meters must meet stringent requirements to measure accurately set by Measurement Canada. Measurement Canada then evaluates the prototype design for accuracy. If the meter passes these tests, it’s approved and can be used for billing purposes in Canada. NOTE: It’s always recommended to check with the service provider if they would charge to remove the meter for testing.
- If the matter remains of concern, as a last resort, you could dispute and file a complaint to Alberta Utilities Commission about the service provider. Although their jurisdiction is limited to certain areas, they would still be able to help in resolution. In some cases, the issue may be taken to the public hearing. In this situation, the complaint must be submitted to the AUC in writing. The AUC will work with you if your dispute goes to a public hearing.
Submitting meter readings according to each Wire Service Provider in Alberta
Another way to avoid any discrepancy is that utility or WSPs also give an option to customers to provide meter readings online. Here are some of the provisions from different distribution companies across Alberta:
- EPCOR has an online form for meter reading submission (Submitting your meter reading.)
- Enmax Power has an online meter reading submission form (Submit a meter reading.)
- Fortis customers can provide meter readings via an online form or by calling 310-WIRE (9473).
- If AltaGas receives a request from its customers to read the meter at any time other than when the meter is usually scheduled to be read, a Special Meter Reading fee may occur.
- ATCO: If you want to discuss your meter reading options, ATCO suggests you call your distribution company for more information. Our team reached out to ATCO’s communications team but hasn’t heard from the company yet. We’ll update this section once we receive updates from the WSP.
- Customers in Crowsnest Pass, Cardston and Ponoka can call 1-866-6629 to submit a meter reading.
Requesting a smart meter in Alberta
Meters that allow distribution companies to obtain meter reads without direct access are becoming more common in Alberta and have allowed for consistent and accurate meter reads every month for billing.
Smart meters, also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), are a digital version of a traditional electrical or natural gas meter that works bi-directional. This simply means that unlike traditional analog and electrical meters requiring WSP to take a reading in person, it automatically sends daily consumption information to the supplier.
Most energy consumers in Alberta, especially in urban areas, have smart meters at this point. Having a smart meter eliminates the requirement of in-person readings. This allows your actual consumption to be billed every month, instead of an estimate.
Both options depend on your local distribution company. Some of them may charge you for an additional meter reading, whereas others may install a smart meter for free upon request. Here’s a summary of how the main distribution companies in Alberta handle smart meter requests:
- EPCOR enables customers to request a smart meter. In Edmonton, it seems easier to request a smart meter than actually opt out of these devices. For example, EPCOR requests payment in case a customer decides to opt-out of smart metering. Customers in regions covered by EPCOR require to submit a written notification, and the process may take up to 30 days.
- FORTIS already uses smart meters, and customers are allowed to submit their own readings as well via the online form mentioned earlier in this guide.
- For any meter upgrades or modifications, customers in the ENMAX Power-covered areas need to call: 403-219-7799.
- For the City of Lethbridge, any changes in existing electrical services, whether residential, commercial, or industrial, need to send a direct request to [email protected]. An electrical technologist will be assigned who will get in touch to address the concern.
- ATCO customers can request an interval data meter if the load is less than 500 kW (customers will be billed for the additional costs: standard installation costs and a monthly fee.)