The process is underway for installing BC Hydro smart meters in homes and businesses in the Lillooet area.
Installations began in June and should be completed in mid-summer, according to Hydro spokesperson Greg Alexis. He said 4,000 smart meters will be installed in this area.
The meters are being installed on Hydro’s behalf by Corix, the same company hired by the District of Lillooet to install the community’s water meters.
“In total, we will be installing nearly 1.9 million new meters across British Columbia,” Alexis told the News. “To date, we have installed over 70 per cent of the smart meters in the province, with 98 per cent of Hydro’s customers accepting a smart meter.”
The Crown corporation says the meters are safe, transmitting data for only one minute a day, and will eventually make it possible for customers to save money by tracking and managing their own power use. It also says smart meters create a more efficient power system and will save money in the long term through reduced loss and reduced theft of electricity.
Hydro says the meters will also help in restoring power outages by alerting the utility about areas where electrical outages have occurred.
“If a customer has concerns about the new meter we will hold off on installing the meter while we work with them on an individual basis to address their questions and concerns,” said Alexis. He added that it is not viable to offer an opt-out option because smart meters are required to renew the electrical grid.
“Another challenge in not having all customers participate in the program is that it would have a cost impact on those customers who have accepted their new meter,” said Alexis. “There would be an increase in costs and a decrease in benefits because additional infrastructure would have to be added to address gaps and BC Hydro would have to operate two systems – one for the 98 per cent of customers with smart meters and another for the two per cent who do not have smart meters.”
He said customers who have concerns should contact BC Hydro directly “so we can ensure they have the facts.
“We’re finding many customers have been misinformed and once they receive accurate information they accept a new meter. Customers also have the option to have the meter moved to a different location on their property.”
Opponents of Hydro’s mass smart meter installation claim the meters emit radiation when they broadcast electricity data usage, can be used to spy on people’s power consumption, and can lead to privacy violations and create fire hazards.
To date, 50 BC municipalities, including Vancouver, Victoria, Penticton, Vernon, North Vancouver District, Squamish, Richmond, Burnaby and Nanaimo, have approved motions opposing the mandatory installation of smart meters. The District of Lillooet does not appear on that list of 50 municipalities.
Responding to health concerns about the meters, Alexis says the BC Centre for Disease Control has confirmed smart meters are safe. Among others things, the Centre’s report concludes that smart meters use low-level radio waves to communicate and the radio frequency drops significantly the further a person is away from the meter.
Hydro says the BC Cancer Agency also says the meters are safe: “Smart meters emit RF radiation, but only intermittently, and at a level several times below that of the highest level of personal exposures from cell phones, and well below existing limits for RF exposure to the public.”
The Citizens for Safe Technology website says citizens can try posting No Trespassing Stop signs if they want to keep their analogue meters. They can also send a letter of non consent for smart meters to BC Hydro and provincial politicians. The letter does not guarantee that BC Hydro will not install a smart meter, but the website says the letter eliminates citizens’ “implied consent” that it says Hydro is using “to justify the installation of meters without notification or permission.”