Rotraut Knopp is planning on celebrating as soon as she turns her lights on this week — but is not relying on BC Hydro to supply her power.
“We are going to have a party; everything will be switched on,” said the Ships Point resident.
Knopp, 71, has been living without electricity since Oct. 30 when the company cut off power to her trailer after she stopped paying her monthly legacy meter fee for her analog meter.
Following a month of propane heat, oil lamps and making soup on her Coleman stove, Knopp installed solar panels last week from Hakai Energy Solutions, a Cumberland-based company.
“It’s going to be totally fine once everything is installed and it’ll be happy again. It’s been a bit rough, but it’s okay. Overcoming roughness is good too,” she said.
Because of health implications, Knopp refused to have a smart meter installed, and had been paying the usage portion of her hydro bill, but refused the monthly fee.
In April, the B.C. Utilities Commission approved BC Hydro’s request for a monthly charge of around $30 for reading an analog meter and administration fees.
Knopp said she owed more than $150 in fees, but the idea of paying to restore the service or installing a smart meter was not an option.
Although she was served 10 notices from BC Hydro since June, the company cut her power, noting they work with the customer to make arrangements for bill payment, but disconnection is a last resort.
Instead, Knopp explained she had the basics — heat and water — to survive, and said she thought of her mother living in Germany to get her through a handful of rough moments.
“You don’t have much of a choice to eat; I’ve had a lot of soup, but it’s good soup,” she noted with a laugh. “Sometimes in the mornings when you get up and want to make a cup of tea, you have to get dressed to make it (on the porch), but it’s things I can live with, it’s not so difficult.
“In Germany, all women had to make do, especially during the war times … if my mother can do it, I can do it. My mother had it five times as hard.”
Knopp was the first customer in the Comox Valley to have her analog meter disconnected for not paying the legacy fee, but since then, other customers have faced the same fate.
Last month, Merville resident Chris Brules had her power disconnected to her home. She was using a smart meter with the radio turned off and paid her usage fee but only the legacy fee on months when the meter was being read.
After a few days in the dark, Brules, who operates a home-based business using her computer, explained she had no choice but to pay her legacy fee and have her power resorted.
She said it was mostly manageable and relied on the kindness of her neighbours, but any loyalty toward BC Hydro is now gone.
“I will be moving towards independence from them,” she added.
Knopp noted having solar panels installed gives her a sense of independence from BC Hydro.
“I want nothing to do with them, I don’t like to be pushed around. I don’t have to depend on anyone, and I like that,” she said. “(The panels) will be at least 20 years worth of Christmas presents all in a row.”