Rotraut Knopp is looking forward to sunnier skies — literally.
The 71-year-old Ships Point resident had been living without electricity since Oct. 30 when BC Hydro 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 in December. While she admits it is not as convenient as electric power, she said “it’s been really worthwhile.
“It’s going really well. The way I do things have changed; I’m more aware of what needs to be done. I don’t need to do laundry when it’s dark for days.”
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 2014, 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.
She was served 10 notices from BC Hydro since June, and the company ultimately cut her power at the end of October.
“We make a lot of effort to work with the customer to make arrangements for them to pay their bill or to arrange a (payment) schedule,” said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro’s manager of community relations for Vancouver Island. “But the rest of us are expected to pay our bill … all of our customers are treated equally. If you buy gas or go to a restaurant – it’s the same. Your bill must be paid.”
Knopp remained defiant and is now completely “off the grid”.
Knopp explained while she has added additional solar batteries since the original installation, the panels are working out very well, allowing her to “be more conscious of my surroundings.”
“If it’s cloudy the whole day, I’ll wait until there’s enough energy to do laundry or vacuum, then I’ll do it.”
She said as a result of installing the panels, she has become more self-sufficient, and noted even on the cloudiest of days, she still gets some electricity.
If the power to the batteries drops below 60 per cent, Knopp uses her generator as a back-up source. Fully charged, the batteries provide power for about four or five days, she added.
“Last week there was a lot of sunshine and I used just enough power for what came in. (To use panels) you have to be willing to learn and I like learning.”
Knopp hopes her switch to solar electricity will inspire others to think about their power use. As a result of her conversion, she has neighbours considering the switch.
“Using solar allows me to think more about what nature is doing and act accordingly. I’m glad — it teaches me things about what I haven’t paid attention to before.”