Opponents of smart meters will be happy to know that FortisBC will be offering them an opt-out provision in the near future.
Last week FortisBC received approval from the BC Utilities Commission to proceed with its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project.
As a condition of the approval, FortisBC must confirm by August 1 that it will file an application for an opt-out provision by November 1.
“However, the BCUC’s decision is lengthy and we have a responsibility to our customers to properly review it before making a commitment to moving forward with the project,” said Neal Pobran, manager of corporate communications for FortisBC.
Pobran said it’s too early to speculate on what options may be part of the decision.
Smart meter opponent Judy Nicholas from Oliver said she is relieved that the BCUC has finally made a decision on FortisBC’s application.
“Fortis can now place a power meter on a home that will radiate and heat the cells in the body.”
While Nicholas said she is happy that the commission has put controls on FortisBC’s proposal, she is saddened for people of low income who may not be able to afford the opt-out option.
Nicholas stressed that smart meters have never been proven safe, noting she will not have one on her home. (She has a lock on her existing analog meter and refuses to take it off.)
She pointed out that several provinces and states in America have rejected smart meters.
The BCUC said the reasons for approving FortisBC’s application include:
– The project is expected to generate a net benefit of $13.9 million as a result in operating costs and electricity theft;
– The $51.2 million project is expected to reduce rates over its 20-year lifespan;
– The project complies with Canadian safety standards with respect to radio frequency emissions and provincial privacy standards.
The BCUC reported that emissions generated by smart meters are significantly below the levels set out in Safety Code 6 established by Health Canada.
“The scientific evidence in this proceeding does not persuade the panel that there is a casual link between radio frequency emissions and the symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity,” said the BCUC.
Pobran said if FortisBC elects to go ahead with the project, the new advanced meters will pay for themselves by nearly eliminating the expense of manual meter reading and preventing millions of dollars lost to electricity theft.
“Electricity theft currently costs FortisBC approximately $3 million per year and can create unsafe wiring situations that are a threat to first responders, our employees and the public.”
Pobran said the company will work with customers to address their concerns and give them options.
FortisBC expects to make its decision on the advanced metering project within the next month.
Provincial Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said government is responding to public concerns by providing opt-out options with the costs borne by those customers and not subsidized by the majority, who have a standard BC Hydro smart meter.
BC Hydro customers who do not currently have a smart meter will now have three choices:
– Choose the standard smart meter at no cost
– Accept a digital meter with the radio off. This option will be subject to a one-time cost to modify the meter plus a monthly fee to read the meter.
– Keep the old analog meter, which will be subject to a monthly fee that will include both the extra cost of reading the meter and the cost of instituting duplicate systems.
According to the ministry, smart meters lower costs, reduce theft, encourage conservation, and can automatically detect outages.
“As we have said, nobody will be forced to take a smart meter. I believe that this is a fair and reasonable solution for all British Columbians,” Bennett said.
BC Hydro CEO Charles Reid said smart meters are now part of their standard operating equipment, just like utility poles and wires.
“We have been engaging with customers throughout the province about smart meters over the past two years and we believe this solution is a reasonable compromise.”
About 96 per cent of BC Hydro customers now have a smart meter – that’s 1.8 million meters. Approximately 60,000 meter installations have been delayed by customer request.
Customers who choose to keep their existing installed analog meter will be able to keep them until the meter breaks down, their Measurement Canada seal expires or they relocate. When the account holder changes, the analog meter will be replaced with a standard smart meter or a digital meter with the radio off.
Many people continue to argue that smart meters pose a health risk because of electromagnetic radiation exposure. Others have raised privacy concerns about smart meters recording more detailed information on how their household uses energy.
But Jerry Flynn, a radiation exposure expert, said Health Canada has an abysmal history of not protecting Canadians from harmful products, such as tobacco, asbestos and lead.
Flynn said the World Health Organization classified all electromagnetic radiation (EMR) a Class 2B “possible carcinogen.”
He also maintains that none of the microwave radiating devices in Canada have been tested prior to their sale here.
Flynn is calling for a moratorium on any further installation of smart meters in Canada.
Meanwhile, a class action suit has been brought against BC Hydro with support from the Citizens for Safe Technology Society and the Coalition to Stop Smart Meters.
The lawsuit seeks an order that BC Hydro remove unwanted smart meters, in addition to restraining the company from exacting payment in exchange for customers opting out.
Sharon Noble from the coalition said the freedom to control possible carcinogens emitted from one’s home is a right.
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