Hydro says it's still 'working with' smart meter holdouts

Most homes in the Comox Valley are now equipped with a smart meter — in keeping with the controversial BC Hydro Smart Meter Program that intends to install the devices on every home in B.C. by the end of the year.

Hydro says 21,000 of 23,000 new meters have been installed in the Valley, marking a 92 per cent completion rate locally.

The company is still honouring requested delays in installation.

"We're working directly with those customers to address their individual concerns," BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk said. "We understand this could take more than one conversation. In the meantime, we won't install a new meter unless we have the homeowner's consent."

The first meters were installed in 2011 when BC Hydro awarded Corix the contract. Aside from delayed installations, Olynyk said there have been instances where workers could not access the old meter, which is BC Hydro property.

"It's important we have access to the meter," Olynyk said, noting safety and other reasons. "The Smart Meter Program is not just about having a new meter on homes. It provides Hydro with information on system use where there's outages, and helps us deal with theft."

Smart meter opponents say the devices emit radiation, increase the likelihood of structure fires and violate privacy rights by recording details of power usage.

In a presentation last year to the CVRD board, Hornby Island resident William Thomas, representing the Royston Citizens for Safe Technology, said hydro bills have doubled and even tripled where smart meters have been installed. He criticized BC Hydro for not testing the meters under a full load, and for neglecting to consult with residents.

"I am one of more than 140,000 British Columbians – and many other Canadians – claiming my democratic right not to have a microwave smart meter grid imposed on myself and my community," Thomas states in an e-mail.

He claims thousands of studies corroborate the dangers of wireless emissions certified as carcinogens by the World Health Organization.

The Islands Trust has called for a moratorium on meter installation throughout the Gulf Islands.

Others have expressed concern about smart meters being used in a surveillance capacity where data could be hacked.

"We don't see any personal information," Olynyk said. "It's encrypted in the same way online banking is encrypted. We don't know what customers are doing past the meter."

Time-of-use billing is not part of the program, he added.

Over the next 20 years, BC Hydro says the Smart Meter Program is expected to yield a $520-million return. The company also says smart meters will eliminate billing errors, and put a dent in energy theft from marijuana grow operations.

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