The battle of the smart meters is heating up as some residents say B.C. Hydro’s opt-out options aren’t options at all.
In July, the provincial government announced the Meter Choice Program, in which eligible customers can choose the equipment to measure power consumption. It came about after some citizens, citing health concerns, refused to allow the smart meters on their properties. To date 1.8 million B.C. homes and businesses are equipped with the meters that use wireless signals to transfer information to B.C. Hydro, including 24,000 homes and business in Squamish.
Ferdinand Vondruska is one of 700 households in the community holding out on smart meters. He’s concerned about the microwave radiation the meters emit.
With nine meters on his farm, Vondruska said he can’t afford B.C. Hydro opt-out options. In a letters sent to eligible customers, B.C. Hydro states that citizens can keep old meters by paying an additional $35 a month starting on Dec. 2. Residents can also choose a smart meter with the radio turned off for a $100 set-up fee and $20 per month starting April 1, 2014.
Getting off the grid is difficult to achieve for a working farm, Vondruska said. So far, he’s refusing to pay for either of B.C. Hydro’s options. He doesn’t believe the old meters cost that much to maintain.
B.C. Hydro has sent its opt-out fees to the B.C. Utilities Commission for final approval. A decision is anticipated in December, said Greg Alexis, the company’s smart meter representative. The payments are purely cost-recovery fees, he noted. Besides operating trucks and paying for meter readers, the company has to add additional telecommunication equipment in the network to work around the non-communicating meters, Alexis said.
“The charges are to ensure that the rest of the customers are not subsiding the people that opt out,” he said.
It’s not a new idea, Alexis noted. In Portland, Ore., the hydro company charges $51 per month for off-radio meters and $254 for a set-up fee.
Linda Ewart is part of the group Citizens for Safe Technology that’s participating in a class-action suit against B.C. Hydro in regards to smart meters.
“We are getting lots of people who are wanting to participate,” she said, adding that 19,000 names were collected on petitions opposing the meters. “A lot of people can’t afford the $420 for a meter reader to come twice a year.”
The proposed options go against people’s human rights, she said, noting the equipment is being forced upon individuals.
Smart meters transmit information to B.C. Hydro three times per day, for less than a minute in total. Standing beside a smart meter for 20 years, is the equivalent to a 30-minute cellphone call, according to an independent study on the equipment.