Smart meter opponents call for more study

Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett calls for a deeper look into the benefit of BC Hydro's 'smart meters'.

  • Dec. 14, 2011 3:00 p.m.

There needs to be a deeper look into the benefit of smart meters as the province’s Crown utility begins to cast its technological net outside of the Lower Mainland, says the Mayor of Warfield.

Bert Crockett was adamant the B.C. public did not have the money to pay for a $40-milion experiment in recording electrical consumption, stressing that governments on all levels should practice restraint when it came to the province’s coffers.

Last week Ontario’s environmental commissioner said Ontario had no idea if its hydro ‘smart meters’ program, which began in 2007, was having any effect on electricity conservation, the CBC reported.

The meters were supposed to allow utilities to charge consumers different prices for electricity at different times of day: high prices during peak times, lower prices at off-peak times.

However, Crockett thought the idea needed more research before millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on installation and activation.

“If it is an unnecessary move and it is not going to make a big difference I don’t see the value in going forward with it,” he said. “To me, it’s just another step towards rate increasing.”

BC Hydro is committed to converting all analogue meters to electronic smart meters by 2012, with the conversion already underway in some parts of the province.

Crockett was responding to the prospect of the Smart Meter Program making its presence felt in

the West Kootenay region next year, calling for the Crown corporation and the B.C. Utilities Commission to dig into the issue to assess the cost to taxpayers, as well as the efficiency of the new model and its affect on the health of British Columbians.

Crockett’s request for review was echoed by Nanaimo-based group StopSmartMeters.ca, which also asked BC Hydro to instruct Corix, the installers of the new smart meters, not to dispose of the existing analogue electrical power meters they are removing.

By Thursday, Corix has announced it will begin disposing of all the analogue meters it has collected while installing smart meters.

“As each fully functional and dependable analogue meter is disposed of a little piece of democracy is lost,” said Walt McGinnis, spokesperson for StopSmartMeters.ca.

“One by one, as the analogue meters are replaced by a microwave emitting surveillance device, our rights and our freedoms are being stolen.”

McGinnis felt people believe the province has pushed ahead on the program without due diligence or public education, using “implied consent” as the basis of moving ahead with the program, and a thorough review was needed.

Like the anti-HST movement before it, StopSmartMeters.ca is applying for an official initiative petition under the “BC Recall and Initiative Act” on approval from the chief electoral officer. McGinnis said its website (www.stopsmartmeters.ca) will allow people to pre-register for the vote and lend weight to the call for a referendum. As of Tuesday there were 2,387 people pre-registered.

The petition will require signatures from 10 per cent of all registered voters in the province in each riding before a question can be formulated for a referendum vote.

Unfortunately, by the time the referendum is allowed to happen in 2013, BC Hydro is expected to have completed its province-wide Smart Meter Program. A provincial referendum vote can only happen once every three years, with the HST vote held in 2011.

Pressure against the government’s program is building on another front from Citizens for Safe Technology (CST). The group has collected 15,528 signatures against the installation of smart meters, with a goal of 100,000 by Feb. 14.

On Nov. 24 CST presented the petition at the legislature in Victoria, asking Energy Minister Rich Coleman to halt the program until the BC Utilities Commission could conduct a review.

Citing reasons of health, privacy, cost, security and safety, John Horgan, NDP energy critic, spoke to the petition that called for a moratorium on the smart meter program (http://citizensforsafetechnology.org/).

To register your refusal of a BC Hydro wireless smart meter, a form letter from the CST may be useful at: http://citizensforsafetechnology.org/alerts-and-updates-in-news-and-developments,85,0.

The CST said the letter was not a guarantee BC Hydro would not install a smart meter, but it eliminated the “implied consent” argument they use to justify the installation of the meters without notification or permission.

According to the website, it is recommended that you keep copies for your files, and perhaps post one by your meter.

People can send their letters via electronic mail to: smartmeters@bchydro.com and info.utilities@corix.com.