If Quebeckers can say “no” to smart meters getting installed at their homes, then British Columbians should be able to do so as well.
That’s according to Una St. Clair, executive director of the Citizens for Safe Technology Society.
However, St. Clair doesn’t expect opt-out provisions to be incorporated in the smart meter program of B.C. Hydro before this year’s May provincial election.
“I think it will have to wait until after the election,” St. Clair told the Straight in a phone interview. “I think the [B.C.] Liberals have painted themselves into a corner.”
Conditions approved by Quebec utilities regulator Régie de l’énergie for opting out of so-called “new generation meters” went into effect on December 1, 2012.
Electricity users in the La belle province “can opt for a meter determined by Hydro-Québec that has no radio-frequency emission”, according to the conditions laid out by the regulator.
If a customer makes this choice, there is an installation charge of $137. Plus a monthly meter reading charge of $17.
B.C. Hydro didn’t make a spokesperson available for an interview with the Straight.
Instead, the power company offered a January 23, 2013, op-ed by Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas Rich Coleman, who emphasized that “smart meters are a necessary part of modernizing our grid”.
Coleman also assured that B.C. Hydro “will not install a new meter without the homeowner’s consent and will work directly with customers to address their individual concerns”.
According to the B.C. Liberal minister, B.C. Hydro has already installed 1.74 million smart meters throughout the province, and is “now in the process of installing the remaining 85,000”.
Opposition energy critic John Horgan indicated that a B.C. NDP government will request the B.C. Utilities Commission review opt-out provisions in other jurisdictions.
“We would prefer to see a cooling down period, and have this issue dealt with after the election,” Horgan told the Straight by phone.
Critics of B.C.’s $930-million smart meter program have raised a host of concerns like health and privacy about the digital devices that are designed to record electricity consumption on an hourly basis. According to B.C. Hydro, smart meters send hourly consumption back to the public utility three times a day.
Chris Anderson is a member of Gulf Islanders for Safe Technology. “I do not and never will,” the Salt Spring Island resident told the Straight by phone on whether he already has a smart meter at his home.
He’ll go to great lengths to avoid subjecting himself to what he described as “data mining cash machines”. According to Anderson, “If necessary, I’ll go off grid.”