Controversial smart meters coming to Campbell River

BC Hydro plans to install smart meters throughout the summer

Controversial hydro meters are coming to Campbell River beginning in July.

BC Hydro plans to install smart meters throughout the summer, with the last to go in by November. The company has already installed 1.3 million of them across B.C.

Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said the devices will allow Hydro to operate more efficiently, particularly in the event of a power outage.

“Sometimes we’re not aware of an outage in a smaller area because no one has called it in because they think someone else has called,” Olynyk said in a presentation to the Strathcona Regional District’s Committee of the Whole last Wednesday afternoon. “The smart meters send us a signal (as the power goes out) and that signal will show up on our computers and will tell us where there’s an outage.”

The smart meters will also transmit to BC Hydro how much energy a home is using, therefore eliminating the need for meter readers to go onto a person’s property.

Hydro has been promoting the smart meters as a money-saver despite the fact rates are not going down.

“The rates will go up but because of a hand-held device people can choose to have…you can see what your consumption is so you could make adjustments,” Olynyk said. “Consumers can save five to 15 per cent by making small adjustments.”

But not everybody is on board with the smart meters, which use Wi-Fi to transmit signals. Critics worry the radiation the devices give off pose a health threat and that the transmitters will violate people’s privacy.

“Electricity companies can know the power usage at a property with a smart meter by using the remote meter reading system,” according to the website Stop Smart Meters. “They can use this data to develop a usage pattern report, which can then be used to deduce the time of day people are at home and when they are using electricity.”

Olynyk said that isn’t true.

“The Internet is a great place for information but not all of it is correct information,” he said. “There’s misinformation out there that BC Hydro will know who you have over for dinner, when you’re eating dinner and even when you’re having sex because of smart meters.”

As for radiation, Olynyk said they are so low that public places with Wi-Fi, such as community centres and coffee shops, pose a greater threat than smart meters.

With BC Ferries adding Wi-Fi to its routes, Olynyk said a one-way trip from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay is now the equivalent of the amount of radiation someone would be exposed to in 35 years of having a smart meter.

Still, those opposed to the smart meters can put a note on their old meter asking BC Hydro to delay installation of the smart meter.

Olynyk said Hydro has not yet worked out what will happen in the long-term to those customers who refuse the smart meter.

“There’s still a lot of runway room to determine what happens,” he said. “Some choices have to be made.”