December 8, 2011
British Columbia

Saltspring residents to smart meters: Stay off our island!

By Andy Ivens, The Province, 8 December 2011

Saltspring Islanders are organizing to stop B.C. Hydro smart meters from being installed on their homes.

“I won’t let them take my meter,” island resident Andrea Collins told The Province. “End of story – they’re not having my [analog] meter.

“On Saltspring, we’re getting very organized now,” said Collins, adding plans are afoot to drive the meter installers employed by Corix, the firm with the contract to install the meters, off the island. “We have our network set up so that we can figure out when they’re coming, and we’ll be there to block them.”

Collins is unmoved by data Hydro has published showing the wireless smart meters, which communicate with the electric grid through short bursts of radio waves, are safe.

“They are ignoring 26 municipalities who are asking for a moratorium until public concerns on safety have been addressed,” said Collins. “[The government’s] response to that is, ‘They’re going in anyway.’

“This to me is completely undemocratic. Hydro and [Premier] Christy Clark are really not listening.”

Marc Davis is another islander opposed to the meters.

“People are taking their own measures to prevent their existing meters from being tampered with, including encasing them in lockboxes,” he said.

Hydro is installing the high-tech devices across B.C. in order to comply with the Clean Energy Act, at a cost of $1 billion. Up to 6,000 smart meters are being installed across B.C. every day, although pockets of opposition are digging in to try to change the government’s mind.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman said his government is listening and turning around opposition when they hear about it. “We have a number of people who do reject them, but not many,” Coleman said Thursday.

Out of the 1.8 million smart meters to be installed, he projects only 3,000 customers will have voiced concerns by December 2012, when the program is complete.

“About 50 per cent of the people who initially reject them, once they get a better understanding, they take them,” said Coleman, noting 430,000 smart meters have already been installed. There’s no going back, he said.

But NDP energy critic John Horgan said he has received so much negative feedback about smart meters that he thinks the government should halt installations until a public hearing is held.

“Stop implementation, send it to the commission and let’s have a hearing,” he said. “My approach, and the approach of the opposition, has always been go to the [B.C.] Utilities Commission as you should for a $1-billion expenditure . . .

“It’s among the worst policy decisions and implementation that I have seen, and that puts it beside the HST.”

Cindy Verschoor, public affairs manager for Hydro’s smart-meter program, said the meters will show a profit down the road, with savings of $70 million over the first three years.

Besides improving efficiency, Hydro crews will be able to restore power outages more quickly, she noted.

Once complete, the smart-meter program will allow Hydro to measure how much electricity is flowing through the grid at any time.

“That allows us to send the right amount [of electricity] at the right time,” said Verschoor. “Today, we’re managing it blind, so we send more than we need to make sure you have enough.

“[The smart-meter program] is going to save a considerable amount of energy without customers having to do a thing,” she said. “It will save 14,000 gigawatt hours of energy over the next 20 years. That’s enough to power about 64,000 homes per year.”

She said Hydro will save $1.6 billion by 2032.

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