COMMEN-TERRY: BC Hydro plays hardball with defiant senior

BC Hydro is getting tough with its smart meter stance – and it is using a senior citizen on fixed income as its first Comox Valley target.

Ms. Rotraut Knopp is opposed to having a smart meter installed in her home, and who can blame her? She hears the stories – the safety concerns put out there by like-minded citizens.

Originally considered fear-mongers by some, their complaints became much more than that, when the province of Saskatchewan ordered the removal of more than 100,000 smart meters already installed in homes, after at least eight of the devices caught fire.

The fears are understandable – more so for someone who lives alone, outside a main municipality.

BC Hydro does offer customers an out, if you can call it that.

You do have the option to keep your old meter, at an added cost of $32 a month.

That’s right – an added cost.

BC Hydro calls this a “legacy meter fee”.

Sounds to me like extortion.

“Buy into our new program or we will charge you more for the old one.”

Now, Ms. Knopp is not a typical deadbeat customer. She has, according to her, paid all her usage fees, on time. She simply refuses to pay the legacy meter fee.

It seems kind of backward to force customers to pay more if they don’t want the “new, improved” service, but that’s how it works, here in B.C.

In case you are not yet shaking your head at disgust with “big business” flexing its muscles, here’s the other part of the story.

Like most power companies in Canada – and most in the northern United States – BC Hydro has a policy regarding power cutoffs during the winter months.

Due to the extreme temperatures Canadians face, company policy states that BC Hydro will not cut off power to any of its customers between Nov. 1 and March 31.

Basically, if your account becomes delinquent during that time, BC Hydro will ask for payment, but will not cut off power until spring.

It’s a smart, humane policy. The dire consequences that could be associated with cutting off power during the winter months in Canada are frightening.

Bravo to BC Hydro and all other power companies for putting human safety before the almighty dollar.

Or do they?

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it’s more than sheer coincidence that Ms. Knopp’s power was off two days before BC Hydro was no longer ALLOWED to cut off her power?

By its own admission, BC Hydro would not have been able to cut off Ms. Knopp’s power, on, say, Monday.

So, instead, they play hardball with a 71-year-old, and cut it off on Oct. 30.

I’m guessing Ms. Knopp was not the only BC Hydro customer resigned to using candles on Thursday night.

Granted, from a purely legal standpoint, BC Hydro was well within its rights. Someone owed money (reportedly approximately $300), and BC Hydro cut off the power while that option was still available to the company.

That said, that kind of predator/prey mentality is best served in the wild.

I like to think that as humans, we are more apt to protect our weak. Clearly, not everyone shares that sentiment.

It would appear the BC Hydro “Off-tober” ad campaign that ran last month … “less about giving, more about saving”… was less about public relations and more of an internal office memo.

It makes one wonder what message the “No-vember” ads will promote.

Terry Farrell is the editor

of the Comox Valley Record