A Hornby Island opponent of BC Hydro smart meters says options presented last week by Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett are discriminatory.
People refusing smart meters can opt out from standard smart meter installation, but they will pay to do so. BC Hydro has three options for those who have refused smart meter installation, Bennett announced Thursday.
• Accept a standard smart meter;
• Accept a digital meter with the radio turned off, which would mean a one-time cost estimated at $100 for installation, plus a fee of about $20 per month to cover the cost of reading the meter;
• Keep their analog meter and pay a monthly fee — as yet unannounced — which would cover the cost of reading the meter, plus the cost of creating a separate system to record consumption for billing.
Ministry communications director Matt Gordon says the cost to keep an analog meter should be announced “sooner rather than later,” noting the cost to of the separate system is more complex for BC Hydro to calculate.
According to a Ministry news release, these fees will be reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission before they become official “to ensure that BC Hydro is only recovering the cost of providing and servicing the radio-off and analog options.”
Will Thomas — a Hornby Island resident who represented a group dubbed Royston Citizens for Safe Technology in an anti-smart meter presentation to the Comox Valley Regional District over a year ago — calls the options discriminatory.
“Some of the costs … $100 to set up a digital meter, $20 a month to read it, and whatever the costs are for an analog, will deny the very ‘opt out’ option to British Columbians who cannot afford this additional fee structure,” he says. “So it appears to be discriminatory on the face of it for people who cannot economically afford to exercise these so-called options, and I call this extortion.”
Bennett notes the aim behind the fees is to ensure extra costs BC Hydro will incur from the other options are not subsidized by all BC Hydro customers who have standard smart meters.
“This decision finds an appropriate balance between addressing the concerns raised by people who have put their meter installation on hold, while ensuring that the majority of customers who have a standard smart meter will not be paying for those who select an opt out option,” says Bennett in the release.
“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.”
Thomas says British Columbians were never asked whether they wanted to opt in.
“We never opted in, therefore we don’t feel we need to pay to opt out,” he says, adding the program was “foisted on” British Columbians. “We — the people who want nothing to do with these radiation meters, that’s the government’s problem — we didn’t opt in. We don’t feel that anyone, any British Columbian, should be penalized for this program, whether people are in or out.”
According to Gordon, if an analog meter must be replaced in the future, such as if it stops working, that customer will be offered a digital meter with the radio turned off.
The Provincial Health Officer, Health Canada and the World Health Organization have confirmed that smart meters pose no known health risk or reason for concern, according to the Ministry release.
Advocacy groups claim the meters emit radiation, increase the likelihood of structure fires and violate privacy rights.
Sixty-thousand meter installations have been delayed in B.C. due to customer request. About 96 per cent of BC Hydro customers now have smart meters provincially. In the Comox Valley region that number sits at about 93 per cent.
BC Hydro will offer an enrolment period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1 for those holding out to make their decision. The installations are expected to be complete by Mar. 1 next year.